Draft EIA Notification 2020 and its impact

By: Anunya Kasliwal

For the past 60 days, many Indians of all ages have been enraged about the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, and rightly so. 

Image Source: PTI)

What is EIA?

EIA is a tool for assessing the potential impacts of developmental projects (such as river-valley, mining, dredging, etc.) on the environment, economy and society and providing sustainable alternatives to the damaging components of the project.

It involves local communities, stakeholders, and the general public in deciding where and how the project needs to be amended, making it a democratic procedure. 

EIA comprises several processes, namely:

  • Screening- Determination of whether the project needs an EIA, and if yes, categorization of the projects into categories A, B1 and B2 (where A is at the largest scale and B2, the lowest)
  • Scoping- Identification of key issues and impacts of the project for further investigation
  • Impact analysis- Identification and prediction of the likely impact of the project of the environment and society
  • Mitigation- FInding alternatives to mitigate the potential damage of the project
  • Public hearing and reporting- consultation of local communities and environmental groups for setting the project up, and preparation of a report, taking into account all the comments of the Expert Appraisal Committee and other stakeholders.
  • Review of EIA- The decision-making process, where the Impact Assessment Authority and other experts review the adequacy of the EIA report to take a final decision (for giving an approval).
  • Post-monitoring- Checking whether the project is complying with the norms and the conditions laid down by the EIA after it gets commissioned.

The tool was developed and introduced by the national environmental protection agency (NEPA) in the US in 1970, and formal legislation was made in India in 1994 to make EIA mandatory for many categories of projects.

Since then, the EIA draft has helped in preempting a large number of ecological disasters from taking place.

What’s different about EIA notification 2020?

This year amid the lockdown, however, the government of India proposed a new notification pertaining to this process- the EIA notification 2020. 

This notification is different from the amendments made to the original draft in a way that dilutes the EIA process to a very large extent. 

Why should we be concerned?

Things can look very different on paper and on the ground, and thus we don’t know to what extent the new draft can give way to environmental damage. However, we know for sure that the outcome of loose environmental norms can never be better- not for the economy, and not for the environment for sure. 

The attempt of diluting environmental laws and procedures for the ‘ease of doing business’ is neither feasible nor fair. While it is true that the economy needs recovery, I believe that it cannot be at the cost of the environment. In fact, exploiting resources and mistreating the surroundings right now will have horrible repercussions on the economy in the future. 

We cannot compromise on the state of the environment, especially at a time when we are getting close to the tipping point. When it comes to the climate crisis, there is no going back, and we cannot expect a safe future if we do not take action now.

Meanwhile, it is unfair for us to constantly point out the flaws in the ways of the world without realizing that we also leave a footprint behind. The fact is that system change needs its people to change- people including you and I. We need to take conscious and informed decisions in every choice we make. Because society is an outcome of all our combined choices and because of every choice matters. 

Let’s not forget the basics- consume less. Because that is the best way to boycott the current economic system. And because that is the best way ahead.

If you have gone through this article, you’re the one. Bring the change.

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

Anunya Kasliwal

Anunya Kasliwal

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