Objections and suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft EIA notification 2020

Objections and suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft EIA notification 2020

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Dear Sir, 

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, that seeks to replace the current notification which goes back to 2006. The end date for public participation is on June 30 2020.
This petition is in pursuant to your notification for suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft EIA notification 2020.

The entire premise of EIA and my suggestion should be considered based on the fact that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment and we can't allow the short term perceived economic gain to jeopardize our ability to live life in a good natural environment, as ensured by our constitution.   

I am categorizing the submission here broadly on following aspects

1. Need to increase the timeline the Draft notification is open to the public for providing  suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft EIA notification 2020 
2. Objections on loosening scrutiny as existing under this law now and suggesting alternative


On my first point  -> It can't be understated that immense public participation is required for any issue related to the environment, leave aside change in EIA as this has impacts that are too complex for us to predict. This uncertainty can be alleviated with collecting as much information from Public which may not have been available at this time of draft notification. The present situation due to pandemic doesn't allow such public participation and neither has this been a popular topic to allow for zealatory public participation. Closing the last date of public participation within lockdown is denying natural justice to the natural environment and it's beneficial especially to the people of India. It should be taken up as endeavour in this period till the pandemic is fully over to create awareness about the importance of public participation in this crucial activity and allow for full public participation for a suitable period of time post the pandemic. It can be anybody's guess as to what will be the participation from the vast majority of citizens of this country who will be most affected by these changes and mayn't have desirable access to the internet for the feedback required. As much as a citizen has its fundamental duties, Art 51(A)(g) in protecting the environment, it should have the right to participate in formulating law with given avenues to ensure loopholes in law are closed, as desired by Art 51(A)(j). It should be endeavors of the ministry to make public hearing all over the country on this draft notification to inspire a law living upto it's value it's built for and not just be a step in the process for establishing business. 

Next -> The page one of the draft speaks about bringing in transparency and expediency through an online system. Transparency through the online system is a welcome step but to loosen a law to make it online is a failure of thought process. We can't compromise the natural environment because of effort to make it online. The draft completely failed to explain how exempting certain categories from public consultation and reducing their timeline will help in bringing transparency.  Alternatively in pursuance of transparency, the Ministry should have its base established via  it's own official, in collaboration of District Forest officials and approved agencies in every Tehsil, Village level to engage with the population and have constant feedback from them on their environmental concern, safeguards, local knowledge and build them into mega computer network of environmental system and using this project proponents can have a impactful draft proposal ready which should include possible mitigation measures and place it for public consultation. This will save vital time and also give confidence to the public even before the consultation starts. All projects planned are ultimately desired for public good and their hurried approval without proper information and mitigation in place can lead to business profit more than public good. In the draft notification several projects have been exempted from Public consultation, Section 14 (2), which is wholly wrong approach. Public consultation under EIA should be mandated for every project as it intends to cover without exemption and if required after adverse public feedback, the projects only under the category of national security should be passed by proposing suitable mitigation measures. The exemption as requested under modernization of irrigation projects is at a very high level which can include those not exempted as well. Yet another concern is inclusion of Post facto approval which is laying the foundation of the sunk fund scenario as it will already cause damage by the time approval is obtained. 

At its present shape and timeline the Draft EIA is not suited to do justice to Article 47(Improvement of Public Health) , Article 48-A of the constitution. While dealing with approvals for the project, EIA should in it's spirit consider safeguarding against the pitfalls in the Industrial System that promote pervasive and organized violation of most fundamental rights of humanity by adversely impacting the right to life by deterioration of the natural environment.
Heritage of this great nation includes it's robust environmental laws which has been followed by other nations in the world and it's our responsibility to keep that pride intact.

--
Jai Hind
Indrajit Dutta Choudhury
India