New Delhi, August 10: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released the draft notification of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 in March seeking public opinions. On June 30, the Delhi High Court extended the time granted for public opinion on the contentious 2020 EIA draft until 11 August. As the deadline comes close, the 2020 EIA draft is widely debated. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress is sparing over the 2020 EIA draft. Rahul Gandhi Tweets 'EIA 2020 Draft Must be Withdrawn to Stop Loot of The Nation'.

History of Environment Impact Assessment:

In order to regulate activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources, India notified its first Environment Impact Assessment norms in 1994. Since then, all development projects are checked for their potential environmental impact and based on these assessments, they are granted or denied the EIA clearance. The 1994 EIA was replaced by the 2006 modified draft. Now, the Modi government has proposed the 2020 EIA draft to make the existing norms "more transparent and expedient". Draft EIA Notification Does Not Relax Process of Public Hearing: Javadekar to Ramesh.

EIA Draft 2020: Full Text

Contentious Issues of 2020 EIA Draft:

One of the most contentious issues of the 2020 EIA draft is the exemption given to 40 different types of industries from the need for prior environmental clearance. It simply means no EIA clearance would be needed to carry out projects mentioned in the list of exempted. This includes projects labelled as "strategic" by the government. The draft also says that no information on "such projects shall be placed in the public domain".

Another issue is that the 2020 EIA draft allows projects operating in violation of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, can now apply for clearance. In case of violations, a violator will have to do remediation and resource augmentation corresponding to 1.5-2 times the "ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation".

"The Appraisal Committee shall stipulate the implementation of EMP, comprising remediation plan and natural and community resource augmentation plan corresponding to the 1.5 times the ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation in case of the suo moto applications or two times the ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation in cases reported by any Government Authority or found during the appraisal of Appraisal Committee or during the processing of application if any by the Regulatory Authority, as a condition of Environment Clearance," the draft reads.

Environment Activists' Concerns:

Green activists say the 2020 EIA draft makes it easier for industries to escape environmental accountability. They say the new draft restricts ambit of EIA because as many as 40 types of industries have been exempted, thus, normalising environmental violations. The new draft states that environmental violations by projects can be reported only by the government and the project proponent themselves and not by citizens. This significantly reduces public engagement in protecting the environment, activists say.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 10, 2020 01:21 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website