Maharashtra Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray has written a letter to Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and raised objections on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) draft notification 2020 proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
In the letter, Aaditya Thackeray noted that the EIA draft has exempted several environmentally destructive activities such as coal prospecting, crushing and screening of ore, seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration, etc.
Highlighting the issues in the draft, the Maharashtra minister observed that EIA narrows down the definitions of Environmental Site Assessment (ESAs) effectively excluding villages, forests, wetlands, coasts.
Following are some of the issues Aaditya Thackeray highlighted on:
- Upto 50% expansion of any existing project does not require public consultation. Upto 25% does not require an EIA process at all.
- National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries are no longer safe, i.e. appraisal is no longer needed for some B2 category projects to which various hazardous industries (Red & Orange Industries) have been added.
- Study Area' of EIA meaning areas surrounding within an aerial distance of 10 km and 5 km around the boundary of the projects under A, B categories are restrictive in nature. Nuclear & other such hazardous industries need larger study area.
- Allowing old data as baselines for the environmental assessment and not multi-season studies.
- Allowing the industries to fence off and secure' land before getting Environment Clearance (EC).
- Draft EIA report will not be openly accessible to the public, but be made available only on written request and that too for electronic inspection at a notified place, during office hours.
- The draft gives power to the Central Government to appoint State EIA Assessment Authorities. State Governments are more akin to environmental matters because they possess a better knowledge of ecological sensitivities of their local regions. Instead of decentralization, such centralization in environmental clearances would only lead to hurdles or clearances without taking into account the local issues. Therefore, reducing State Government's control will have direct consequences on environment protection efforts.
- National Defense, and defense related matters are significant and therefore protecting such projects' core information is realised. However, other projects, which would be considered as strategic by the Central Government, should not be excluded from public intervention. Also, over 40 types of harmful industries are exempted from public consultation and the EIA process, these include mines, petroleum etc.
Meanwhile, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) draft notification 2020 proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has met with massive opposition. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has called for the withdrawal of the EIA draft. “This EIA 2020 draft is a disaster. It seeks to silence the voice of communities who will be directly impacted by the environmental degradation it unleashes. I urge every Indian to rise up and protest against it," he said. “EIA 2020 draft must be withdrawn to stop the loot of the nation and environmental destruction,” Gandhi added.
However, Prakash Javadekar said that is not a final notification and the ministry has received thousands of suggestions which it will consider before coming out with the final draft.
“Saw reaction of some leaders demanding protest against the EIA draft. How can they protest against the draft? It is not a final notification. It was kept for public consultation for 150 days because of Covid-19. Otherwise it is only 60 days as per rules,” he said.