As India aspires to become the next global superpower, one of the biggest concerns is the impact our rapid growth is taking on the environment. With Government and Environmentalists at loggerheads over almost every new infrastructure project, the onus lies on the administration to find a common middle ground to ensure India develops in a holistic manner without impacting the environment.

In the light of these recent developments, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently released the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020. As of today, the draft is open to public opinion sharing until August 11, 2020.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a regulatory assessment procedure, which studies the impacts of a project/activity on the environment. EIA is a tool that can help halt or change procedural methods to reduce the impact of a project on ecology.

Environment Vs. Development

EIA falls under the ambit of the Environment Protection Act 1986 and is considered as a very powerful tool in protecting the environment from human activities, which is adopted around the world.

While some view EIA as a hindrance to economic development others think it is a “toothless tiger” with diluted powers and liberal exemptions.

The new draft however has drawn flak, for alleged “backward shift instance”. The key points of the draft that is widely being criticized:

  • Exemption from EIA for projects with strategic importance at the discretion of the government and any information regards to these strategic projects will not be made public
  • The Post-facto environmental clearance could help industries to begin projects and seek voluntary clearance later. In a crude attempt to speed up economic gains, the draft could speed up environment degradation
  • Curtailing Public Voice, many believe the new draft robs the citizens from their right to question or address the strategic projects being implemented
  • Time allotted for public hearings has been reduced from 30 days to 20 days, to speed up the clearance process. This has can have a direct impact on the rural citizens who are directly impacted by these projects

The new draft not only dilutes regulations but also increases the risks and sparks concerns of environmental degradations, especially in rural areas. If the draft is approved as is, the concerns surrounding the nature and its people may be lost.

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