Environment
The draft notification allowed for businesses to run without obtaining prior environmental clearance just by paying a fine.

Facing opposition from citizens, the Centre has scrapped a draft notification which allowed businesses to run without obtaining prior environmental clearance by just paying a fine.

Earlier in March, the controversial Environment Supplemental Plan (ESP) was withdrawn after the Ministry of Environment and Forests received more than 25,000 comments. Most of them opposed the decision, the government said.

This came to light in a Right to Information reply to Jhatkaa, a non-profit campaigning organisation.

“The RTI response clearly mentioned that the ESP was scrapped because it received over 25,000 comments primarily opposing the idea, out of which over 2000 of which can be tracked directly to Jhatkaa members. This is a huge victory because it helps ensure the integrity of the current environmental clearance process! It is extremely encouraging to know that the ministry has taken feedback from citizens very seriously in this case. It clearly shows that when issue experts, campaigners and citizens work together, we can even move the MoEFCC. This is how democracy should work,” said Tania Devaiah, former senior campaigner of Jhatkaa.org, who led the campaign at the time.

“When we read the government’s ESP draft notification, we knew it would be a disaster for our environment. We worked with issue experts like Advocate Ritwick Dutta, Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon from CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program, and Terence Jorge from the EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC) to help us understand and simplify this report for our members. When our members realised what this proposal meant and the small window of opportunity that the comments period offered, they did not hold back,” Devaiah added.

Earlier itself, in March, the environment ministry issued a fresh notification replacing the ESP idea with a one time, six-month window for project proponents who had not received environmental clearance to apply for post-facto clearance.

This proposal also came under scrutiny from the Madras High Court and was stayed.