A serious threat to environment to be stopped now and it is serious than COVID situation.

A serious threat to environment to be stopped now and it is serious than COVID situation.

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The Central Ministry has proposed a change in existing Environment Impact Assessment processes (EIA Notification, 2006) through a draft EIA Notification, 2020. The proposed notification will destroy the process of environmental protection and affecting the environment irreversibly, also making it easier for the corporate to get environmental clearances for their projects. Hence, we the people, strongly oppose the draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020, and request you to withdraw the same.
Amidst the pandemic situation, it is improper to take decisions that will have an irreversible impact on the environment. However, the Union Ministry is keen on making changes in Environment rules and granting clearances. It is evident from the fact that over 30 projects, located in some of India's most bio-diverse forests have been urgently cleared or taken up for clearance in online meetings during the lock-down (23 April 2020). Site inspections are a crucial component of project evaluation and are difficult during a pandemic. Ministry appears to be relying only on digital documents uploaded by the project developers. Even more surprisingly these projects have been cleared at a time when Covid-19 has revealed dramatically how seriously the loss of forest land and biodiversity can increase zoonotic diseases.
Environmentalists also have raised their voice and wrote to Environment Minister regarding how forest and environment clearances were being granted across India during the lock-down. On that note, shockingly, the Ministry has put out a draft notification for public comments amidst global economic and public health emergency when there is restricted public movement.

Major Issues:

• The new amendment poses a serious threat to the environment and there are some areas of concern like granting post-facto clearances to Industries and leaving aside them with Fine alone in case of any violations. For several projects, the whole process of EIA is made simpler and fails to meet the standards of basic environmental protections. However, in an order on April 1, the Supreme Court held that "ex post facto environmental clearances" are contrary to law. It said: "Environment law cannot countenance the notion of an ex post facto clearance. This would be contrary to both the precautionary principle as well as the need for sustainable development".

• A public hearing has been exempted to many industries (those producing acids, paints, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) located in Notified Industrial Zone, this will create serious problems in areas that depend entirely on ground and river water for agricultural usage. Public consultation has also been exempted from a list of linear projects. Projects such as roads and pipelines in border areas will not require any public hearing. The 'border area' is defined as "area falling within 100 kilometers aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India." That would cover much of the Northeast, the region with the country's richest biodiversity. Exemption from public hearing goes against International environmental law and agreements.

• Increased validity of the environment clearance for mining projects and river valley projects from 30 years currently to 50 years and, 10 years currently to 15 years respectively, thus increasing the risk of irreversible environmental, social, and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.

• Through the draft, it is enough for the industries to provide an annual environmental compliance report rather than half-yearly reports. Past experiences show that industries have continued to provide data that are false and inaccurate. Seeking an annual report provides an opportunity for the industries to further underestimate any socio-environmental issues arising in their projects.

• The Public consultation process is diluted. The period for the public to submit their views and responses during a public hearing for any application seeking Environment clearance has been reduced from 30 days to 20 days. It is aimed at denying the proper opportunity to record the objections of the people of the region. 
The various provisions of the draft are aimed at facilitating the government's doctrine of "ease of doing business". Hence, we would like to reiterate that it is our generation that will be a victim of the devastating effects of these twisted and diluted laws like the new EIA draft. In this age of high pollution levels in our cities, we need to strengthen the EIA 2006 instead of allowing amendments that will dilute the rules and encourage environmental violations.

The current draft lacks understanding of the adverse effects of activities like disturbances in eco-sensitive zones, extensive mining. The notification was released on 23rd March 2020, surprisingly right before the day of nationwide lock-down. There has been no wide publicity given to the same except being uploaded on the website. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a time to stay safe and protect oneself. Hence, the government must understand it is not the right time to make amendments in EIA Notification for its aspiration of doing business. We sincerely hope that the Environment Ministry will encourage informed public participation as committed through Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and the principle of Natural Justice. The EIA can be used to bring India out of the Covid-19 pandemic as an environmentally aware country through a green recovery that strengthens the role of environmental and social protection of all people and nature instead of justifying the present forms of harmful development.
So, we request you to kindly withdraw the Draft EIA Notification – 2020, right now.

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely

People of India