‘Abandon draft EIA 2020’: 75 youth groups in TN write to Centre

In a hard-hitting letter, the youth groups have stated that the move to push the latest notification is 'irresponsible, reckless and insensitive'.
‘Abandon draft EIA 2020’: 75 youth groups in TN write to Centre
‘Abandon draft EIA 2020’: 75 youth groups in TN write to Centre

Seventy five youth groups from Tamil Nadu and 1720 children and youth below the age of 30, have written to the Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate change, urging him to abandon the controversial draft Environment Impact Assessment notification (EIA), 2020. In a hard-hitting letter, the youth groups have stated that the move to push the latest notification is 'irresponsible, reckless and insensitive' to the rights of young people and future generations who will inherit the environment.

The campaign has been organised by the Chennai Climate Action group. All the 75 youth organisations which have signed the letter are from Tamil Nadu and belong to a range of social, political and environmental organisations. The Ambedkar Periyar Circle in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, students from the Dr.Ambedkar Law University, Madras Medical College, Madras School of Social Work, SRM School of Architecture and Interior Design and SRM Institute of Science and Technology are amongst those who have registered their protests.

"We are writing to urge you to abandon the draft EIA Notification, 2020, which is the latest in a series of actions taken by your ministry to dilute environmental laws in the name of ‘ease of doing business’. This is short-sighted. Any economy that is based on a premise that nature is expendable is doomed to self-destruct," the petition reads. "The proposed EIA Notification weakens the body of laws that protect the environment at a time when we need to be strengthening such statutes. Worse, the proposed rules seek to enrich businesses and the corporate sector by emasculating democracy, limiting public participation and due diligence, and rewarding environmental offenders by facilitating post facto environmental clearances for projects that begin or are completed without license, " it argues.

The youth group points out that the coronavirus pandemic that has currently gripped the country has shown that nature has the power to bring economics of major industrialised nations to a grinding halt. Chennai specifically, they argue, is limping from one disaster to another - water scarcity, flooding, cyclones and heat waves.

"The voices of today’s youth, and the aspirations of future generations have to be taken into account in designing today’s policies and legislation. Informed and wise politics would demonstrate a commitment to keep alive life on this planet for several millennia more and avoid the temptation of succumbing to immediate political and economic expediency," reads the petition. "We request you to abandon this draft, to commit yourself to our well-being and future and initiate a wide-ranging participatory exercise to strengthen our environmental laws, and bring our development and economic plans in line with the increasingly visible limits being imposed by nature," it concludes.

The groups have raised five major issues in regard to the proposed amendments. These are -

1) Requirement of Prior Environment Clearance or Prior Environment Permission: They argue that the proposal to give permissions for fencing and levelling without any environmental clearance is flawed. Levelling involves transformation of a landscape. The low-lying areas which may be natural drain channels can get filled up and changed due to levelling work thus impacting local ecology.

2)Preparation of Environment Impact Assessment Report: The condition for collecting a baseline data study or one season study for an EIA is completely flawed, unscientific and unacceptable, they argue. In order to make a report on the estimated impact of any activity, it is a must that three season study be done as that would give a better picture of seasonal variations and impacts.

3) Public Consultation: In the latest draft, the Centre proposes to expand the list of projects that are exempt from public consultation. The draft also proposes to reduce the public commenting period from 30 to 20 days and requires that the public hearing process be completed in 40 days, compared to 45 days. The groups believe this will affect citizen participation.

4) Post Facto Approvals: The groups allege that instead of focusing on ensuring the protection of the environment, the draft EIA 2020 undermines the orders of the National Green Tribunal which had ruled against post-facto approvals. It alleges that it appears the purpose of this notification is to legitimize illegalities done by industries

5)Environment vs Economic development: This draft, the groups allege, seem to be appeasing the business and economic interests over environmental interests. This is evident from the fact that the draft proposes extension of the time given for submitting a compliance report throughout the term of the project.

The deadline for public feedback on the draft is currently August 11. 

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