A Letter from APDR to Ministry of Environment, forest & Climate Change

Mr. C K Mishra,Secretary
Ministry of Environment, forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC)
New Delhi
In the matter of Draft Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) Notification 2020

The Central Government proposes to issue the said notification for imposing certain
restrictions and prohibition on the undertaking some projects or expansion or
modernization of such existing projects entailing capacity addition, in any part of
India,” in supersession of the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006 and
its subsequent amendments, says the draft Notification. The word ‘certain’ discards
any expectation of anyone about ‘required’ restrictions and prohibition in ecology
and environment protection of the country!
UNEP desires implementing of environmentally sound policies and practices.
The purpose of EIA Notifications in India is to implement sound policies and practices
to protect our country’s environment and mitigate pollution and not for their further
destruction and degradation as we all see in mines, big dams, industrial units or waste
treatment plants, etc.
Current developmental policies and practices of the government are open-ended
for the investors (both foreign and indigenous). The proposed new notification (2020)
relies on and leaves almost everything to their good wishes including a section of
corrupt bureaucracy. The hon’ble Minister currently leading the Department of
Environment is himself a witness to how the corruption brigade in the department of
industry and mining works in tandem with investors’ money-making machine. The
overall result in 2020 is that from her East to West and from North to South, India is
neck-deep into a drum of petrol. Disastrous events daily happen in our country (Korba,
Vapi, etc.)
A ‘Down To Earth (State of India’s Environment 2020: In Figures) report
(2020) pictured this situation in these words: Environmental crimes: India may take
up to 33 yrs to clear case backlog. The environment cases move in a snail’s pace.
We, APDR, are shouldering this burden like many others in many parts of our country
who moved environmental issues in the courts. About the police and Pollution Control
Boards, the less said the better! The NGT is on the verge of being wound up. For the
central government Section-4 of the NGT Act (tribunal to have full-time chairperson
and at least 10, but not exceeding 20 judicial and expert members at all times. seems
to be no more an obligation, no more a ‘necessity’! How many are there now? In such
a scenario, conceiving a ‘Regulatory Authority’ and an ‘Appraisal Committee’ as
reliable checks against the widest relaxations granted in the notification-draft to
projects, developers and investors defy the common sense of our society.
If the purpose of having an EIA scheme is to attract international funds, lip service to international commitments and to arrange open space for economic recovery
in its current downturns and Corona devastations rather than concern for the
environment, pollution and climate change predicts misfortune for the nation as a
whole. We hope the government will not traverse this course and you will prefer to
scrap the draft and advise the government to go for a new notification in active
consultation with all stakeholders, environment activists and experts in various fields
with an open mind.
We may recall facts about the step-by-step dilution of EIA (ref: MoEF Order of
14-3-2014) as it existed in 1994. The government’s rationale behind such dilution is
developmental urgency being blocked due to EIA (protracted and procrastinated)
formalities. The draft Notification -2020 seeks to waive off or lessen the ‘rigour’ of
EIA in the interest of superfast nation building. Thus, those who raise questions
regarding the government ethics of putting economy ahead of environment and
ecology (which is one form of developmental extremism too) are treated as ‘enemies
of the nation’, as ‘preachers of extremism’, etc. and framed under the UAPA (activists
of FridaysforFuture.in) or threatened to withdraw their posts made in the social media
(Padma Priya in TN). Acting as per Constitutional Article 51-A (g) is the duty of an
Indian citizen. So, we, APDR, want public freedom to criticise or accept the draft
Notification. This freedom, we think, is also badly affected by your failure to provide
this document in all the 22 scheduled languages. Rules must be followed in their
letters and spirit. Too much hurry gives a bad signal after all.
About violations and non-compliance, the said notification indicates the
government’s softness towards such offences against the people and state and
proposes to exclude a lot of activities from the EIA net. Even compliance reporting by
project proponents is intended to be made annual instead of biannual. The number of
concessions and accommodations abounds for the violators, contradicting the purpose
of EIA. The way sought for easing EIA restrictions and process is in line with earlier
governments with only semblances of cosmetic newness. This is your departmental
Easing the EIA process is necessary, but there are alternative ways to do so if
innovative ideas are adopted about screening, scoping, public hearing (in order to
gain prior knowledge about local public perceptions about development) and area wise preliminary assessments for sustainability of eco-system and environment are
undertaken well before any project proposals comes. This is nothing but integrating
policies and practices with the inner urge of the people for secure life and also for the
security, progress and development of the country as a whole. The draft Notification is
devised on a policy perspective of addressing only individual projects coming to the
department for EC. Development is not a ‘Go as you like’ game. The government
seems to have only ‘goals and targets’ left to be fulfilled through the ‘good wishes’
(so-called ‘Corporate Social Responsibilities’) of the members of the chambers of
business. We, on the other hand, believe that the principle of ‘minimum government’
in environment and ecology protection and sustenance is counter-productive and may
be disastrous for a country like India whose biodiversity is enormous and uniquely
varies from place to place. The country needs thorough and continuous EIAs with
people’s participation to establish regional need-based growth strategy along with
national needs. Every square-inch of our country is precious and every person is
precious, but India’s urbanisation has so far been accompanied by alarmingly high
pollution ; now the target is shifted non-urban areas (villages, tribal areas, fragile
hilly areas etc.); but, the draft Notification exempted ‘B-2’ category of projects
(Clause 13, subcl.11 of EIA) from prior EIA compulsions. This is worrying because
their destinations are the countryside.
APDR proposes not to exempt any industry or project from EIA, be they
MSME or giants. There are ample examples in West Bengal and in other states
showing MSME units have great polluting potential. We request you to consider this
‘The knowledge of local communities is transmitted by aural and visual
traditions through generations which must also be considered when these communities
raise objections during a public hearing’, said our Apex Court in 2018 in Hanuman
Laxman Aroskar vs UoI. But, the Draft Notification seeks to do away with the process
of Public Hearing for Category A and B-1 projects (likely to constitute the majority of
cases amongst all). This is just ‘silencing’ the Vox Populi, if not more: silencing or
destroying the EPA 1986 on which the MoEF itself stands. The legal framework to
address eco-environmental hazards in India is weak from the beginning and
consecutive governments at the Centre and States have weakened them by their
insistent inaction due to political pitfalls of environment issues. Given the state
bureaucracy losing its independent and assertive role in India, things have worsened
The government has lessons to learn from Singrauli, Korba, Vapi, Patancheru,
Tutikorin, Baghjan, Vishakhapatnam and many more cases of disasters happening
daily. The people remain afraid awaiting another Bhopal to happen at any time. We
are talking of ‘Man-made disasters’ wherein your ministry shall be primarily held
Due to its regressive, non-transparent, pro-violators, mis-interpretative nature,
APDR demands that the ‘Draft Notification-2020’ be scrapped or shelved till widest
discussions take place and national unity achieved on the subject.
The guiding theme of the EIA exercise must not be exploiting the Nature and
Environment for immediate corporate profit, but to live with nature and environment
with emphasis on their preservation and nurture. This is our (and the government’s)
duty to the future mankind. We have no right to decimate and destroy nature and
India cannot be allowed to remain dirty forever! It should not be made dirtier in
the coming days!

Dhiraj Sengupta, General Secretary

Association for Protection of Democratic Rights

Kolkata: Monday, August10, 2020

Website: http://www.apdrwb.in Email: apdr.wb@gmail.com
Contact: +919432276415/ +918981416511

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