What is EIA? Why draft EIA 2020 needs a revaluation?

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EIA 2020
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What is EIA? Why draft EIA 2020 needs a revaluation?

Nature is a marvellous wonder that inspires us all. It underpins our economy, society, and indeed our very existence. Forests, rivers, and soil provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and irrigate our crops with. These natural assets are called as the world’s ‘natural capital’. Since nature is free, we often take it for granted and overexploit it. We clear forests, pollute rivers without taking account of the impact this will have. Now, this is one of the key problems faced by our modern world. In order to maintain substantial quality of environment, every country decided to conduct an assessment before approving every project. And thus formed, EIA.

What is EIA?

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commonly described as an assessment of the impact of planned activities on the environment, including impacts on biodiversity, vegetation and ecology, water, and air. If done properly, it will not only reduce negative impacts but also help to maintain a substantial environment in the area where the project is being implemented.

EIA was first introduced by the United States of America as one of their environmental policy in the 1960s. Later, it served as a catalyst for many other countries to implement their own policy in the 1970s and early 1980s. India considered the talk of Environment (Protection) Act in 1986 only after the Bhopal gas leak disaster in 1984. However, the first EIA norms came out only in 1994. Later, the EIA draft was replaced by a modified draft in 2006 stating that the new norms will make the “process more transparent and expedient.”

7 key steps of the EIA process (Source-IISD)

Step No.1 – Screening

It determines whether the environmental and social impacts of a proposed development project would be significant enough to develop an EIA.


Step No.2 – Scoping

It establishes the boundaries of the EIA, set the basis of the analyses that will be conducted at each stage, describe the project alternatives and consults the affected public.


Step No.3 – Impact Assessment & Mitigation

The team evaluates the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the planned project and its alternatives, and then identify the mitigation measures to reduce those impacts.


Step No.4 – Impact Management

The team will prepare the plans required for addressing mitigation measures and other project risks, such as technical failures and natural disasters.


Step No.5 – The EIA Report

The team will pull together all the research and work done during the previous steps into a structured document. They also ensure that the EIA report contains all the key components.


Step No.6 – Review & Licensing

Designated authorities review the EIA report to determine if the planned project will get a license.


STEP_7_EIA

Step No.7 – Monitoring

Ensure that the mitigation measures and contingency plans are properly implemented and effectively address the project’s impacts.


Successfully evaluated projects will get an approval or license to start the project. Hope you are clear with the EIA and its processes now. Let’s get into the EIA 2020 draft now.

Why draft EIA 2020 needs a revaluation?

1. Post-facto environmental clearance

First and foremost reason is that a company can start the project even without any environmental safeguards or without getting the environment clearances. Shocking isn’t it? This is very dangerous because we already have several projects running without the EIA clearances. Do you remember the styrene gas leak at the LG Polymer Plant in Vishakhapatnam which happened on May 7? It was revealed that the plant had been running for over two decades without the EIA clearances.

2. No more public consultation process

The new EIA 2020 draft suggests that projects like the widening of national highways, ropeways, public building constructions don’t require public’s approval. The government is claiming that this will help them to expedite the process. This means that the government will not ask your permission to use YOUR land.

water pollution

The draft also says that Category A projects such as Petroleum plants, Chemical manufacturing projects will be moved to Category B1 or B2 which have lesser EIA processes and do not require public consultation.

3. We can’t raise our voices against violations

The new EIA 2020 norms state that any violations of environmental laws by any project can be reported only by a government authority or by the developer of the project. This means that no normal citizen or any environmental activist group and researchers can’t flag against any violations.

Doesn’t this mean that they are taking Article 21 – the fundamental right from us?

Article 21 guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty to every individual and states that “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”

ARTICLE 21

4. More favourable to the corporates

The earlier EIA norms state that every project with the size of 20,000 sq. m or above requires an environment clearance report by the state-level expert committee. Now, this will be applicable only above 150,000 sq. m. This size is more than the area of an airport. The new draft also suggests reducing the number of days from 30 to 20. This is the timeline where the public can raise concerns on a project.

The new EIA 2020 norms also suggest that industries required to submit compliance reports twice a year will be reduced to once a year. Doesn’t this affect the monitoring system?

I really have no answers for the below questions.

  1. Why the government is bringing out this notification in the middle of this pandemic?
  2. Why did the government take down three national environmental support websites that launched digital campaigns and petitions against the new EIA 2020 draft? 
  3. How can we take part in the consultation process during a fight between life and death?
  4. What profit is our government going to attain in loosening the EIA forms? To support the corporate giants?
  5. Will this new EIA 2020 norms boost our economy? I don’t think so.

Understanding all this, the Delhi High Court has extended the date till August 11, 2020, for the people to give their suggestions against the new EIA 2020 draft. India is already polluted in every possible way. The gas leaks, fire accidents are clearly telling us that the present EIA norms are not great. Loosening it further will only make it worse. Any changes in EIA norms will have a direct impact on us and the environment. Therefore, it is not only a fundamental right but also our duty to voice out our opposition to the draft at the earliest.

Now is the time to raise our voice. If not, the new EIA 2020 norms will make us shut in future.

oxygen mask

If you do not prefer the “new normal” to be upgraded from the N95 masks to Oxygen Masks, I kindly request you to send your objections to eia2020-moefcc@gov.in or sign this petition and make your voice count


MAKE YOUR VOICE COUNT – SIGN THE PETITION HERE


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