Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday slammed the Modi government for the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020. While criticising the Centre, Gandhi warned against the dismantling of environmental rules.
In a column that Gandhi wrote for The Hindu, Gandhi further said the government has a social obligation to protect the environment and it must withdraw the Draft EIA 2020 Notification.
"The Sanskrit words, Prakriti Rakshati Rakshita, greet visitors at the Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, the home of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, (MoEF&CC). They mean ‘nature protects, if she is protected’. This ancient Indic wisdom inspired Indira Gandhi throughout her life, as referenced in many of her letters and files," Gandhi wrote.
She said that the spread of the global novel coronavirus pandemic and its catastrophic impact are an eye-opener for the entire world. "The protection of the environment must go hand in hand with promoting public health and access to dignified livelihoods for all," she wrote.
Sonia Gandhi further wrote India has sacrificed the environment and the rights of people "while chasing the chimera of unbridled economic growth". Over the past six years, the government has thoughtlessly eroded the environmental protection framework, she said.
The Congress party's interim chief also pointed out that India's ranking in biennial global Environmental Performance Index report is alarming. "We were an alarming 177th out of 180 countries in 2018, faring badly on virtually all indicators — environmental health policy, biodiversity and habitat, air and water pollution and climate change," Gandhi wrote.
Gandhi also attacked the Modi government on coal auctions. "The announcement of coal auctions by the Prime Minister in previously declared ‘no go’ areas, signals that the government is in no mood to course-correct," she wrote.
She further said that the proposed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) draft "gives a clean chit to polluters violating environmental regulations through ex-post facto approvals, will unleash unprecedented devastation on our environment".
The Congress on Tuesday claimed that the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2020 (EIA 2020) is an assault on India's ecological security, environment, fragile ecosystems and millions of poor adivasis.
Addressing a virtual press conference, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the government unilaterally acquired power to appoint state environmental impact assessment authorities thereby killing cooperative federalism. Environmentalists, civil society groups and activists have raised objections to the EIA 2020.