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My email to Govt. of India on draft EIA notification 2020

//email to: eia2020-moefcc@gov.in (if you plan to send an email, do it before 30th Jun 2020 – the deadline) <update: Delhi High court got the deadline extended to 11 Aug>
<update: if you like the intent, but would like to copy-paste a less on-the-face letter (compared to mine below), check this out>

Dear Ma’am / Sir,

I just read this 83 page document http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Draft_EIA_2020.pdf – which invites me to offer feedback on this proposed notification. And so, I am writing this email.

I appreciate your attempt at removing too many regulations and hurdles that make it difficult for businesses and industries to expand. We definitely need ease of doing business. So please don’t take me as an anti industries environmental activist.

But it is also a fact that in 2020, India still ranks 168 out of 180 countries in Environmental Protection Index (EPI). While richer countries (that have relatively higher GDP per capita) definitely have more resources to invest in environmental safety (and so usually have better ranks), even poorer countries like Malawi and Ethiopia have better ranks than India! This is a bit much no? https://epi.yale.edu/

So in that context, shouldn’t we probably be improving our environmental regulations – than diluting them?

Are we diluting them? You tell me. Let me just share what I found when I read what you wanted me to read.

My reading of the 83 page PDF tells me that MANY INDUSTRIES CAN NOW START OPERATIONS EVEN BEFORE GETTING ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE.

Let me show why I say so. In pages 3-7 of the PDF, you have defined the following four terms:

  1. Appraisal Committee – basically a bunch of “experts” at central / state / UT / district level (people who know how to read and interpret technical feasibility reports – engineers, professors etc.)
  2. Regulatory Authority – Ministry or State Level Authority (these look like politicians and IAS level officers)
  3. Prior Environment Clearance (‘prior-EC’)” clearance given by Regulatory Authority (that is by Govt.) on the recommendation of the experts (Appraisal Committee)
  4. Prior Environment Permission (‘prior-EP’)” permission (not clearance) from Regulatory Authority for projects that fall in “Category B2” that are *not* required to be placed before experts (Appraisal Committee)

And then in page 18, [section 13 (11)] it’s written that “No EIA Report shall be required for the projects listed under Category B2“.

So what you are proposing is that if an industry falls under a certain “category B2”, it DOES NOT have to submit any Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report that experts can read and comment on!

They can fill some other forms (all provided in your PDF), including an “Environment Management Plan (EMP)” (which is just a small part of a full EIA) that Govt. (Regulatory Authority) can use as a basis to give them ‘permission‘ (prior-EP) to start the project! Wow!

In Appendix X (page 75 of the PDF), you have listed down the general structure of an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report. It is so nice. A quick read of this tells me that without all the information that is required as per EIA, one will never know whether a proposed project is net-net beneficial for the society / environment or harmful. The Appendix also lists what EMP (environment management plan is) – such a small requirement of all the things that a full EIA requires!

It’s like asking students questions from one chapter of one subject and then deciding their board percentage. Take test of all the chapters of all the subjects na? What is this B2 category anyway? Of course you have explained that in the PDF!

To understand this B2 category, I had to keep going up and down a table that runs from page 37 to 45 of the PDF. This B2 category basically includes mining, oil exploration, river valley projects, thermal power, production of chemicals and acids, cement plants, and many more – as also noted by others like the guys who have put together this beautiful list of recommendations to your draft policy – https://unitedconservationmovement.org/summary-of-citizens-response-on-eia-2020-draft/

Do we need more industries? Yes.

Do we need more jobs? Yes.

Do we need economy to grow? Very much.

But have many countries (not just the rich ones – but poorer ones like Malawi & Ethiopia) shown that it is possible to do so, without giving such free ride to industries? Yes!

SO PLEASE DO BETTER?

And I wish this was the only issue.

Section 17 (3) (Page 23 of the PDF), basically says that if Govt. (Regulatory Authority) fails to inform the applicant industry about its decision, within the specified time-period, then the industry can go ahead and start the project, “as if the prior-Environment Clearance sought for has been granted or denied by the Regulatory Authority”.

You are proposing that the applicant industry can do whatever the f*** they want to, if the Govt. doesn’t get back in time!

ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?

Just in April, even the Supreme Court of India saidthe “concept of an ex-post facto EC (environmental clearance) is in derogation of the fundamental principles of environmental jurisprudence”, “detrimental to the environment, and could lead to irreparable degradation”.

I will leave it at this. Please rework the draft and I highly recommend this list of recommendations (mentioned earlier too) – https://unitedconservationmovement.org/summary-of-citizens-response-on-eia-2020-draft/

These need to be addressed. You asked for my feedback. This is my feedback.

Jai hind.

Amrit

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