Objection against gazette notification S​.​O​.​1199(E) draft EIA Notification, 2020 dated

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1. That, I am residing in the above-mentioned address. As a citizen of India, who follows the Constitution of India, and a follower of Indian Union Muslim League, I am concerned about the Sustainable Development of this country and its people. I am strongly objecting abuse of power shown by the Ministry by totally diluting the existing Environmental protection measures in the EIA Notification 2006, by proposing a draft EIA Notification 2020.

2. First of all, Crores of citizens of India are out of internet access either to read the draft or to react to the same. Most of them are ignorant or incapable of understanding the content of a notification which is available only in English or Hindi. Most of them are unable to understand it. Even a project requires its EIA report to be published in local languages, the very notification governing the EIA regime is not doing it is a classic example of double stand, and is hereby objected. This EIA draft notification should be published in all 22 local languages in Schedule 8 of the Constitution, widely circulated and invite suggestions from the public at large. This draft directly affects the rights related to Forests, Environment, Air and Water in India, and future of crores of poor citizens. Parliament Committee on Environment has started scrutinising this draft EIA 2020. Ministry should wait for their report, discuss in the parliament of India. EIA draft Notification 2020 should be withdrawn now and after getting wide public opinion and report from Parliamentary Committee, Parliament should discuss this and pass an act for a fair EIA process.

3. Apart from the above reasons, I prefer the following objection against the draft EIA Notification, 2020 explaining the background and reason for each of such objection.

4. There are exclusions and dilutions of existing environmental norms. Some activities / projects as such are taken out from EIA regime. By reducing the threshold, some activities are out of EIA regime. Regulation of some activities have been categorised as B2 and got away with the EIA Process. The scope of preparing Impact Assessment and Public Consultation have been taken away from several projects / activities that may harm the environment. Time for Public Consultation is reduced. Any dilution from existing EIA provisions in the draft notification is illegal, unfair and against the powers given by Section.3 of the Environment (Protection) Act. All the unfair steps have to be removed. A team of Environmental Experts with independent view should be entrusted to study about the failure of existing EIA norms and make suggestions for future amendments, if any.

5. State of Kerala have faced a severe flood in the year 2018, due to unprecedented rains. Our planet is going through a tough time of Climate Change, and Covid-19. Environment degradation is shown as a major reason for such ecological disasters. All Human beings and the economy as a whole are suffering due to this. We should avoid dilution of existing Environment laws. Most of the changes proposed in the new draft are dilutions of existing norms. No scientific studies after 2006 as to why our Environment is being degraded. The verdicts of various courts including the Supreme Court or National Green Tribunal have not been taken into account while drafting EIA 2020. The new draft is expected to include factors of increasing incidents of flood disasters, including urban floods; changing monsoon pattern; Climate Change, improved scientific knowledge about the status of biodiversity in various agro-climatic situations. It is expected to include the requirements due to India’s international environmental commitments. The new draft as a whole is against the principle of non-regression and Constitutional provisions like Article 48A. The whole draft EIA 2020 is against the basic environment principles including those of Precautionary principle, Polluter-pays principle, Sustainable Development principle, Inter-Generational Equity, Without looking into each provisions, this draft EIA 2020 should be withdrawn as such and a fresh draft shall be put in place before the public, so as to protect our environment.

6. DILUTION OF EXISTING LAWS.

None of the provisions of draft EIA Notification 2020 are “the measures for Protection and Improvement of Environment” and therefore the draft EIA 2020 is not in harmony with the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and Environment Protection Rules, 1986. None of the measures which are part of the draft EIA Notification, 2020 provided below are measures for “the protection and improvement of the Environment”. Several Activities / Projects which were covered under the EIA Regime 2006 are now taken out of the EIA Regime through the draft EIA Notification 2020. Several Activities / Projects which were covered under the EIA Regime 2006, a part of these activities is now taken out of the EIA Regime by increasing the lower threshold limit through the draft EIA Notification 2020. Several Activities which were categorised as Category A and Category B1 (such projects were to undergo approval of ToR for EIA Study, conduction of EIA Study, Public hearing, Appraisal by sector specific Expert Appraisal Committee etc.) are now categorised as Category B2 dispensing with the requirement of approval of ToR for EIA Study, conduction of EIA Study, Public hearing etc. In the draft EIA Notification, under the garb of Modernisation / Amendment to the existing projects which were accorded with Environmental Clearance, up to 50% of the expansion from the permitted threshold limit in the Environmental Clearance is exempted from Public consultation and most of the other procedures provided in the EIA Notification 2006. Through the draft EIA Notification, the provisions for post Environmental Clearance monitoring of conditions stipulated in the Environmental Clearance is diluted to a great extent in comparison to the provisions of EIA Notification 2006. Between, 2006 and 2016 (one decade), there are seven Expert Committee Reports (Expert Committees constituted by MoEF) for suggesting measures for strengthening of existing Post Environment Clearance Monitoring mechanism. The draft EIA Notification ignored the recommendations of all the Expert committee reports.

7. CONTRAVENTION OF PRECEDENTS AND VARIOUS JUDGMENTS
The ministry has violated many judgments of Supreme Court. Hon’ble Supreme Court in its Judgement dated 06.07.2011 and 06.01.2014 had emphasized the need for a National regulator and directed MoEF to create an appropriate authority in the form of a Regulator (i.e., National Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority-NEIAA) at the State and at the Centre level which can carry out an independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of the projects for environmental clearances and which can also monitor the implementation of the conditions laid down in the ECs.. However, the draft Notification has not taken into consideration the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Overall, the issuance of draft EIA Notification, 2020 is clear example of the arbitrary exercise of power, abuse of power by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and hence is liable to be withdrawn fully. A new draft has to be prepared keeping the constitutional duties of the Ministry, Statutory duty of the Government and the growing need of Environmental Protection.

We human beings on the mother earth have the duty to improve the quality of our environment by strengthening the provisions of EIA Notification 2006, deleting all the dilutions. Just like Justice.Verma Committee was appointed after Delhi Nirbhaya incident, to suggest suitable law making for the protection of women, a Committee headed by a former Supreme Court Judge along with experts should be appointed to get good suggestions for a comprehensive legislative reform in the subject of Environment Protection and EIA regime. Without proper discussion in the parliament, no EIA related notifications should be made.

Ministry has to protect remaining forests, remaining lakes and mountains, wildlife and their eco-systems, fresh water sources, Ecological Sensitive Areas, Grasslands, Rivers and Sea Shore, Biodiversity from over exploitation and misuse. We need to preserve it for the future generations. For scientific and wise use of resources, we need a Rule for ensuring the EIA process.

Hence, for the reasons stated above, I most humbly pray and request before you good office to take into consideration the objections raised by me and take necessary steps to withdraw the draft EIA Notification 2020 as a whole and do the following things urgently.

1) Form a Committee of subject experts headed by a former Judge of Hon’ble Supreme Court, with a mandate to incorporate the directions and Judgments of various courts so as to strengthen the provisions of EIA Notification 2006, as per the statutory intent in Section3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

2) Request the said Expert Committee to prepare a draft EIA Notification and circulate it in all local languages, conduct public hearings in various parts of India, take public opinion into consideration and suggest measures to strengthen the Environment Protection through a new Rule under the Act.

3) Considering the report of the above committee, bring a separate Rule in the Parliament for Environment Impact Assessment process, strictly adhering to the principles of Environment Governance.