A few days earlier, there was a flood at our Environment Minister’s place. This is about a flood of emails on the personal email address of our environment minister Mr Prakash Javadekhar.
An Indian branch of the NGO ‘Fridays for Future’, sent many emails regarding Environment Impact Assessment Draft 2020.
On the order of the Environment Ministry, Delhi Police sent a notice to the company that hosted the website of Fridays for Future.
The Delhi Police sent a notice under the anti-terror law- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) because their ‘Objectionable Content’ and ‘Terrorist Acts’ were a threat to Indian peace and sovereignty and they could even be jailed for sending the emails.
After a lot of online troll of the Delhi Police, they apologized and they withdrew the notice under UAPA but they sent another notice under the Information & Technology Act (IT Act).
The government recently released the Environment Impact Assessment Draft 2020.
EIA is a tool to measure a lot of things:
Say, you want to construct a new house;
How much would it cost you (in terms of money)?
How much greenery would be destroyed?
How much water would be pumped by the bore-well?
How much would you pay as house tax?
And to what extent would your new neighbors be troubled due to this construction?
EIA is a tool to find out all of this.
Similarly, when a new project is set up for the development of the country, then EIA measures its impact and calculates its environment, social and economic costs but this new draft is riddled with issues.
Having read the draft, it becomes unclear whether it is to save the environment or to destroy the environment?
Problem Number -1- Post Facto Clearance –
The new EIA draft 2020 allows ‘Post Facto Clearance’.
That is, even if a project has come up without environmental clearance, it can continue its operation, the environmental clearance can be obtained later by paying a small fine as long as the project is permissible on that site.
In the meantime- how is the environment impacted and how many lives are endangered-
How does it matter?
You should concentrate on the exchange offer- Pay the fine, take the environment clearance.
Long live my country!
Problem Number -2- Self Surrender –
Self Surrender here talks about ‘suo moto’ declaration of a violation. According to the EIA draft, if you have flouted the environmental norms, then there are two ways for the government officials will catch you –
Firstly, is the normal route- the government officials will catch you red-handed and then you would be in trouble.
Secondly, the more innovative route is ‘suo moto’ declaration, that is the violators would accept their violations themselves before the government and self-report themselves.
There is no scope for public complaint here. I’m seriously speaking. Hear me out.
On page 29 of the EIA draft, it is clearly written.
According to the EIA draft 2020, the corporates who have invested crores of money into mega projects would undergo a reawakening of their conscience and they would go to the government to get complaints against themselves filed. (I have attached the EIA draft below)
For Example – A driver forgetting to put on his seat-belt while driving and then he/she himself walks up to the traffic police and asks for a challan for not wearing the seat-belt.
Problem Number-3- Exemptions and No Entry for public participation –
Draft EIA 2020 clubs the projects into categories:
Under Category B, there are two sub-category B1 & B2.
All projects of Category B2 are exempt from public hearing.
There would be no hearing no matter how vocal you are about it. Neither would the public be apprised of these projects nor would there be any public hearings.
This exempted list includes –
- Modernization project
- Irrigation projects
- Defense & Securit
- Inland Waterways
- Highways & Area development projects, etc.
Along with these projects, there is another clause that has been included- the clause of ‘Strategic Projects’.
The government can declare any project as ‘Strategic’ and can take it out of the public purview.
The weapon named ‘RTI Act’ has already been rendered useless without gunpowder.
Now, the environment is also being toyed with by putting the ‘Strategic’ tag on the projects.
Let us hope that this does not ruin our country and our environment completely!
Problem Number -4- Reduction in Response Time –
The response period for the public to any notification of a project in the EIA 2006 was 30 days.
In the EIA Draft 2020, the response period was reduced from 30 days to 20 days.
It takes 12 months to pass the twelfth boards and that too with a set syllabus and more or less fixed books but here, it is being expected that a megaproject proposal would first be understood by the local people, who would then imagine its futuristic impacts and calculate the impact on the environment and then a complaint would be registered- all in 20 days.
EIA Draft 2020 gives extended validity to the projects abundantly.
The validity of the mining projects has been increased to 50 years from 30 years.
Meanwhile, the river valley projects have got an extended validity of 15 years and other projects an extended validity of 10 years but that’s not it, they now would be required to submit a compliance report every 12 months instead of every 6 months.
The problem with the EIA Draft 2020 is that if a project is exerting a negative impact on the environment, then it would be impossible to reverse if it is allowed to go on for a long time.
In the language of chemistry, it is called an irreversible reaction.
This is why projects have to show compliance reports despite having got an environmental clearance and they need to get their license renewed.
It’s not that once the clearance has been granted, then we are left to our own will.
But if EIA 2020 increases this period and also increases the risk of environmental damage, then we need to point it out and stop it.
There is another thing that needs to be mentioned- The environment ministry, in the period between July 2014 & April 2020 received 2,592 proposals for environment clearance and out of these 2,256 were approved.
This means that the clearance percentage of projects is higher than that of class 12th percentage of a lot of us.
That is a clearance rate of 87%.
So, when so many projects were approved even before the EIA draft 2020 being implemented it only tells us that when this draft gets passed then how many trees would be cut and then our lifespan would be cut.
But there is a ray of hope amongst all the distress and that is EIA 2020 is still in a draft stage.
The government has asked for our feedback on it. The government wanted it done and dusted by June 30th but the courts woke up from their slumber and the deadline was extended until 11th August.
Growth is necessary for a nation but growth, just for the sake of growth- without taking the damage it would cause into account might be the ideology of a cancer cell.
It should not be the ideology of our nation. A word to the wise is enough- if you deem fit.
Mail the government and tell them what do you think about this draft and its impact on the environment.
The E-mail Address is – [email protected]
Should the government sacrifice the environment for the sake of progress?
Do raise questions or else another “masterstroke” is waiting to happen.
Writing pieces about social affairs is like dopamine to my own brain.