The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 1994 is a crucial regulatory framework in India. The framework aims to regulate and control the impact of developmental projects on the environment. In the past five years, the Indian government has made over 100 changes to the EIA Notification. These revisions have led to widespread criticism and protests by environmentalists and activists. This article analyzes the changes made to the EIA Notification. Furthermore, they’re implications for environmental protection and sustainable development.
Exemption of Projects from Environmental Clearance
One of the significant changes introduced in the EIA Notification was the exemption of several development projects from obtaining environmental clearance. The government removed 40 categories of projects, including oil and gas exploration, small-scale inland waterways, and solar thermal power plants, from the purview of environmental clearance. According to The Hindu, this move has been heavily criticized by environmentalists who argue that it undermines the need for environmental protection and regulation. Without proper scrutiny, these projects could cause irreversible damage to the environment. In addition, impacting the health and livelihoods of local communities.
Reduction in Time for Public Consultations
Another significant change was the reduction in the time given for public consultations. Previously, the public had 30 days to provide feedback on a project’s environmental impact. However, the new notification reduces this time to 20 days. According to a report by Down To Earth, this change has been criticized as it does not provide enough time for the public to scrutinize the projects thoroughly. Environmentalists argue that the public needs more time to understand the complex environmental implications of the projects and provide informed feedback.
Post-Facto Clearance and Self-Assessment by Developers
The new notification allows for post-facto clearance i.e. developers can start their projects without obtaining environmental clearance and seek it retrospectively. This change has been criticized as it provides a way for developers to circumvent environmental regulations and get away with environmental violations. Moreover, the new notification has diluted the norms for assessing the environmental impact of projects. It has allowed for the self-assessment of projects by the developers themselves, reducing the role of independent experts in assessing the environmental impact. According to Business Standard, this change has been criticized.
Another major change in the EIA notification was the introduction of a compliance module for projects granted environmental clearance under the 2006 EIA notification. The module was introduced on June 14, 2022, and aims to streamline the compliance and monitoring process, ensuring that there are no delays in submitting compliance reports to regulatory authorities. However, it is not clear whether these reports and supporting documents will be accessible to the public. Project proponents upload this information on the MoEFCC’s Parivesh portal, using their unique credentials, making it inaccessible to the public.
These changes are just a few examples of the changes that have been made to the EIA notification in the last five years. Some of these changes may be positive, such as the introduction of a compliance module. Others may have a negative impact on the environment, such as the introduction of the SEIAA rating system.
It is essential to note that the changes introduced in the EIA notification are not subject to public consultation. Even though they may have a significant impact on the environment. This lack of transparency is a matter of concern and needs to be addressed. The public needs to be made aware of the changes made in the EIA notification and given an opportunity to provide feedback.
The changes made to the EIA Notification in the past five years have drawn severe criticism from environmentalists, activists, and concerned citizens. They argue that the changes undermine the need for environmental protection and regulation and could have long-term environmental, social, and economic implications. As reported by Scroll.in, several petitions have been filed in the courts against the changes made to the EIA Notification, highlighting their adverse impact on the environment and public health. It is crucial to strike a balance between development and environmental protection. Furthermore, ensuring a sustainable future for all promises the objectivity and transparency of the assessment process.
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