Background-Time for Comments Extended
The timeline for public comments/objections to the EIA Notification (Draft) 2020 [Draft2020] has been extended till 11th August 2020 by the Delhi High Court via its Order dated 30th June 2020. The same order also requires the MoEFCC to translate the Draft2020 into all the languages of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution so that it can effectively reach different parts of the country.
|A dredger in the Gandak River. (Photo: Shripad Dharmadhikary)|
This opens up the opportunity for more and wider set of people to respond to the Draft2020. We welcome the order by the Delhi High Court for the extension of this deadline, and wish to point out that it is not just the time at which the Notification was released that was problematic (with the country under lockdown) but that the Draft Notification is the problem in itself. Many research groups, movements and civil society organisations working on the issues related with environment, including Manthan, have foregrounded the critique of the EIA Notification Draft 2020 time and again during this lockdown and shown that the Draft2020 is deeply flawed, its provisions are against the basic principles of environmental protection and it weaken an already weak environmental governance regime represented by the existing version of the Notification (2006).
Therefore, we join the call by many other environmental
groups to REJECT this Notification. At the same time, we also want to share
some thoughts in how to go from here.
Thoughts for Way Forward – Drawing from Submissions and Discussions
In the course of the many debates and discussions around the Draft2020, several important suggestions been put out which offer important suggestions for the way forward. These include suggestions for actions by MOEFCC as well as by civil society, groups and movements. We are sharing important suggestions drawn from these discussions so as to highlight some key points for the way forward and to initiate a wider discussion on the same.
We would like to clarify that the list of these suggestions
and the action points is not exhaustive but reflective of the broader issues emerging
in the many submissions by civil society organisations and research groups including
Manthan’s submission as well as in the discussions.
- Now that deadline for comments has been extended, the priority must be to SEEK and obtain, in a PRO-ACTIVE manner, comments of those who have not been able to do so, either due to lockdown, or due to their not having access to internet, or due language issues etc. This should be the primary responsibility of MoEFCC and civil society groups should also work towards this.
- In particular, MoEFCC
should hold regional meetings, especially in areas where there is already
high environmental impact and areas of likely high environmental impact –
e.g. Singrauli, Korba, Nellore, Krishnapatanam, submergence areas of dams
like Narmada, key industrial and chemical estates like Vapi, Vizag, oil
fields in Assam etc. and newer
frontier areas like Arunachal. These should include presentations in local
language by MoEFCC on the Draft2020, the reasoning behind it and then
Village submerged by the Sardar Sarovar Project (Photo: Shripad Dharmadhikary)
Given that MoEFCC went out of its way and proactively invited 78,706 project proponents to give their comments, and also had circulated a draft in advance to the state governments, there is little reason why they can’t pro-actively reach out to the most affected people for comments.
- Once the comments have been collected, they need to be processed. This should be done in an independent and transparent manner. MoEFCC should set up a committee headed by a SC judge and co-chaired by an eminent environmentalist, who would process the comments. This committee should call for MoEFCC’s response to all comments and then consider the comments and the responses together. They would be free to call in those sending comments for any clarifications. The Committee would then prepare a report of the comments and their suggestions based on the same. This should be placed in the public domain.
- Given the fact that a large number of comments already sent to the MoEFCC have called for scrapping the Draft EIA2020 on account of number of problems, and also called for more fundamental restructuring of the EIA/EC process in the country, it would be useful that the above committee’s mandate or ToR not be limited to only processing the comments; the same committee can also be tasked with taking the next step, in terms of recommending either amendments and changes to the Draft EIA 2020 and proposing a new draft, or if deemed necessary, propose more fundamental changes and a better legal and regulatory framework for EIA/EC process in the country.
- The above-mentioned exercise will take substantial time. Till then, some of the most problematic provisions present in the EIA Notification 2006 that militate against environmental protection should be removed immediately through executive action. This should include, but not be limited to amending the Schedule to include projects currently missing.
6. A list of such amendments can be made based on past experience and examples, including those that have been put forward in the many comments made on the Draft EIA 2020.
Civil Society organisations, movements and groups can use this extension for the following:
- Civil society, movements must also organise and hold regional meetings, especially in areas where there is already high environmental impact and areas of likely high environmental impact and with vulnerable communities, in areas where repeated violations have shown the problems with the EIA Notification and the institutional mechanism to implement it.
- Use of voice and video recordings of the comments from remote or restricted areas can be explored. Civil society organisations can use these recordings to translate and transcribe the comments for those who could not send in the wake of Covid from these areas.
- The analysis done so far, and the comments already prepared by a number of groups, movements and civil society organisations represent a substantial critique of the Draft2020. While this has been disseminated to some extent, it is important that this dissemination be continued extensively, so that an informed understanding of the Draft2020 can be developed amongst common citizens. Civil Society and media should come together for such continued dissemination of the comments submitted for EIA draft Notification 2020 and the recommendations for the scrapping the Draft2020 and developing a new framework for EIA/EC in the country.
Naturally, all of the above will be subject to distancing and other regulations as applicable due to Covid.
For the ease of quick reference, we have also taken the liberty to put together some of the comments and submissions on the Draft2020 at one place on the internet, which can be accessed here. The page has a folder with the pdf versions of submissions, as well as a file with the urls to the submissions. Again, we want to clarify that the comments we have put on this drive are not an exhaustive or complete listing but only some of the comments that reflect various facets of the analysis.
This blog post put together by:
This blog post put together by:
Manthan Adhyayan Kendra Team