ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Environment Conservation
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
EIA Notification 2020: What are the key changes?
Context: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has published the draft EIA Notification 2020, with the intention of replacing the existing 2006 EIA Notification, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
What is significance of EIA?
- Sustainable Development: An EIA makes a scientific estimate of the likely impacts of a project, such as a mine, irrigation dam, industrial unit or waste treatment plant.
- Public Participation: There is also a provision for a public hearing at which the local community and interested persons can give opinions and raise objections, based on the draft EIA report prepared by experts for the project.
How does the draft EIA Notification differ from the one now in force?
- Removal of several activities from the purview of public consultation:
- A list of projects has been included under Category B2, expressly exempted from the requirement of an EIA
- The projects under this category include offshore and onshore oil, gas and shale exploration, hydroelectric projects up to 25 MW, irrigation projects between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares of command area, small and medium mineral beneficiation units, MSMEs in dye industry etc.
- Also, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance or permission in the new scheme.
- Subverts Public Consultation: The notice period for public hearing has been cut from 30 days to 20 days. This will make it difficult to study the draft EIA report, more so when it is not widely available or provided in the regional language.
- New provision for post-facto environmental clearance: It means that the clearances for projects can be awarded even if they have started construction without securing environmental clearances.
- Promotes Expansion: For project modernisation and expansion, the norms in Notification 2020 are liberal, with only those involving more than 25% increase requiring EIA, and over 50% attracting public consultation.
- Diluted Compliance Mechanism: Project proponents need to submit only one annual report on compliance with conditions, compared to the existing two
What are the apprehensions?
- Exemptions will seriously affect the environment, since these will be carried out without oversight
- The move is seen as retrograde, because the CAG found in 2016 that the deficiency in semi-annual compliance reporting was between 43% and 78%, while failure to comply with conditions ranged from 5% to 57%
- After the gas leak at LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam in May 2020, the Environment Ministry told the National Green Tribunal that the unit lacked environment clearance, exposing the low effectiveness of rules.
How does the draft notification compare with global norms?
- The EU Directive on EIA includes climate change and biodiversity concerns.
- EU has also modified its processes in accordance with the Aarhus Convention, 1998, which stipulates that
- Environmental rights and human rights are linked
- The present generation owes an obligation to future generations
- Sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders
- Government accountability and environmental protection are connected
- Interactions between the public and public authorities must take place in a democratic context.
- The EIA rules in India privileges the interests of the project proponents over that of safeguarding environment
Connecting the dots:
- Polluter Pay principle
- Sustainable Development Goals