When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money – Alanis Obomsawin
I came across this quote many years ago but I didn’t understand the essence of these words until now. While the world is still reeling under the COVID pandemic, and climate action is now more than necessary, the environment ministry whisks out a new EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) draft that aims to further dissolve the EIA process.
The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we cannot go back to the “NORMAL” because our normal wasn’t right. After witnessing the repercussions of the pandemic, one would have assumed, that the government would put more thought into climate action and invest in rebuilding better. Yet our leaders don’t seem eager to let go of the current status quo.
The dilemma of environment vs economy has always been a moot case. The new EIA policy was hatched under the guise of making the assessment process “more transparent and expedient” but instead it does away with transparency and efficacy. It is only being published in three regional languages and not others, thereby keeping the majority of people in the dark. It further made it possible for some projects to set up construction even in eco-sensitive zones without acquiring environmental clearances which is a blatant disregard for the environment and human lives.
Under the new notification, the time for public consultation is considerably reduced and any violations will be overlooked with just a slap on the wrist. Previously, where industries were required to submit compliance report every six months, now they’re required to send it only once in a year.
Projects deemed ‘strategic’ do not even make it to the public domain and are exempted from the public hearing even if it directly impacts their livelihoods. This whole process reeks of pro-capitalism and anti-environmentalism behavior.
The regressive policy prioritizes economic growth over human and environmental welfare and gives more leeway to the crony capitalist industries giving way for enviro-industrial disasters like Baghjan Oil Filed blowout in Assam and LG Polymer Gas leak in Visakhapatnam that uprooted the lives of hundreds of people.
There’s a dire need to address these concerns and put into place renewed strategies that balance economic growth with environmental well-being. We need an action plan that doesn’t treat the environment as a detached property but one that is linked to the economy and the development of the country.
To achieve a truly sustainable and equitable society, we need laws that respect nature, recognizes human dependence on the environment and prioritizes sustainable human well-being rather than mere GDP growth.
The Delhi High court has extended that the last day to send in objections to this draft notification till August 11th, 2020. These objections will then be considered by the Union Government before passing the notification. We can’t allow the government to further disrupt the environment and jeopardize our future. Time is running out. Send in your objections now.
(You can find the sample letter format here.)
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)