India needs a robust EIA process | HT Editorial
The government must take into account the criticism and improve the draft
On Monday, former environment minister and senior Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, reiterated that the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020 notification was not based on research, reduced public participation, and represented an attitude which viewed environmental regulation as an “unnecessary...burden”, not as a means to ensure the welfare of people and sustainable development. Union minister of environment, forest and climate change, Prakash Javadekar, termed Mr Ramesh’s comments “unfounded”. But Mr Ramesh is not the only one with concerns. On July 10, 100 environmental researchers, activists, ecologists, conservationists, and former members of government bodies sent a letter to Mr Javadekar, critiquing the notification.
The critics claim that the draft EIA legitimises post-facto environment clearance; excludes major industries from the EIA process; subverts the public hearing process; reduces the scope of citizens to report violations, and fails to address a project’s impact on wildlife, and habitats. This is mostly true. They also claim the draft fails to address the conflict of interest that arises from the fact that a project proponent can choose a consultant to do impact assessment; and the quality of composition of the expert appraisal committee, which is often staffed by those with no technical expertise. These, too, are valid objections.
Mr Javadekar has a critical role in protecting the environment and vulnerable communities. It is imperative that he patiently listens to the objections on the draft EIA, even if they are coming from Opposition party members. India deserves a robust EIA. This will be possible only if the consultative process is intense, rigorous and takes into account legitimate concerns.