"Draft EIA is A Blueprint for Indiscriminate Loot of the Nation's Resources": Says SIO
NEW DELHI, AUGUST 12—The Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) of India has said that “the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020 is a virtual blueprint for indiscriminate loot of the nation’s precious natural resources”.
“While effective utilisation of resources is a necessity for development, the draft EIA proposes a scheme that drastically scales down environmental safeguards and accountability at all levels”, says SIO in a press statement.
“It allows post-facto clearance, effectively meaning large and sensitive projects can begin operations without clearance and drastically reduces the scope of public hearings. It bars citizens from reporting violations and restricts the scope for the public to seek interventions from the NGT and other authorities. The categories of projects exempted from the EIA process has been vastly expanded without disclosing the rationale and criterion of exemption”, India’s biggest Muslim students’ organisation says.
While stating that the EIA process as it exists under the EIA Notification, 2006 and the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, is certainly not ideal as these lack provisions for participation of local communities in the assessment process but “the new draft has diluted it more than ever before”.
The student body says that corporate houses and their sponsored media have always looked upon environmental protections as an irritant.
“SIO of India firmly believes that all decision makers would do well to remember that we are not absolute owners of our natural resources, merely temporary guardians. Our actions today cannot irreparably damage the world for all future generations. India must align itself with the growing global consciousness that the environment is our most precious collective responsibility, and not merely an avenue to maximise wealth and profits”, the statement says.
SIO has submitted the following recommendations proposing revision to draft EIA 2020:
1. Environment protection is not possible without change in public ethos and behaviour. In this regard it is very much vital that the conservation of the environment and responsible living be made part of public ethos. Part of the work includes sensitization of the public on a regular basis, and of making substantial and effective changes in the education system to engender the above values in students, who are the future of India.
2. The definitions of eco-sensitive areas must not be diluted from the existing ones. No exceptions must be allowed. The definitions must be further expanded to include the habitation areas of those tribes which continue to maintain traditional style of living.
3. Environment impact assessment is not possible without the involvement of the citizens. The public and civil society must be involved in the form of mandatory public hearing with sufficient time frame. No curtailing must be done for representation, be it local or otherwise. Likewise, public hearing must have scope for physical attendance as well as written submissions. No project should be allowed without it, be it new ones or expansion of existing ones. No expansion of any size must be allowed without a due processes of public hearing and Expert Appraisal Committee.
4. The process of environment clearance must involve scientists and competent experts, following strict guidelines with due diligence. Utilisation of digital technology must not result in compromise of the due process.
5. Given the rapid changes and impact of global warming, data collection must be undertaken and updated for each season, taking cognizance of change and impact on biodiversity.
6. No restriction whatsoever should be placed on the right of citizens to report violations or to seek legal recourse through the National Green Tribunal or seek judicial intervention.
7. The post-facto approval proposal is against the fundamental structure of environmental law and also derogates the order of the National Green Tribunal and hence it needs to be scrapped. The ex-post facto environmental clearances are also illegal as per the Supreme Court and hence should not be justified in any manner.
8. Given the ease of submission online, compliance reports must be maintained at the current rate of twice a year, submitted every six months.
9. The validity of environmental clearance must be revised: Mining projects for 15 years and all other projects including river valley projects for 5 years.
10. No industry should be permitted without due process of screening, public hearing and approval. Home industries of micro or small size without means of mechanised mass production and that are non-disruptive of ecological and biosphere balance can be exempted. Information about all projects must be duly declared and no information must be withheld from the public domain. Any projects of strategic or sensitive nature can be placed within the existing defence lands, with assessment and monitoring functions entrusted to committees duly formed for the purpose by the relevant authority with defined mandate and jurisdiction.
11. The process for environment clearance for red and orange category industries MUST require public consultation and EAC approval. And also Category B2 should not include any industries in the red and orange category. Shifting the classification of industries in orange and red category to Category B2 is retrograde in law and is not in consonance with EPA 1986. (Niti Shankar Deshpande Vs UoI – it is the duty of the Government to strengthen the law not to weaken it).
12. All river valley projects, independent of capacity, must be included in Category A. Prior to the approval of such river valley projects, a cumulative EIA by an independent, duly accredited body must be mandated.
13. The federal nature of the Indian Union must be upheld as laid down in the Constitution. The union government must not overstep its jurisdiction in any matter and must respect the rights and authority of the states.