Draft EIA 2020: Multiple Fault Lines

Draft notification dismantles the very foundations of environmental protection laws

Amidst the global pandemic, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) put out a new Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification to amend the EIA notification of 2006. With the proposed draft notification, MoEFCC, in an attempt to accelerate ‘ease of doing business”, intends to diminish the EIA process to support easy approval of projects. This move will severely weaken environmental protection and sustainable development in India.

The draft EIA notification of 2020 not only codifies the progressive weakening of EIA governance but also systematically dismantles the fundamental legal framework of India’s Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (EPA, 1986) and is against global environmental principles.

The argument that Draft notification is pro-development and is necessary for promoting growth and creating jobs is fundamentally flawed as decades of experience has shown that in the longer-run environmental degradation leads to lower and not more development; unsafe rather than decent jobs.

The Youth Perception Survey on Draft EIA 2020, which we conducted between August 2 – 7, 2020 on Instagram, reflects the growing sensitivity towards environmental issues among the young people in India. It also reflects the mounting sense of urgency among youth to act to build a green and sustainable future.

In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, the need for economic recovery does not provide any justification for weakening environmental protection. We need to use the opportunity to rebuild better and support more sustainable ways of living rather than ‘race to the bottom’ to weaken environmental protections to attract investments and businesses.

Draft EIA notification 2020 needs to be withdrawn.

  • EIA is a process based on the precautionary principle to assess the impact of development projects on the environment.
  • Infrastructure and commercial projects like dams, mining, industries, hydroelectric plants, nuclear power plants, thermal power plants, industries, airports, ports and harbours, rail, highways and bridges require EIA approval if such projects are located in environmentally fragile or sensitive areas.
  • Draft EIA notification 2020 deviates from the statutory foundation of the EPA, 1986 and the vires of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the right to clean and healthy environment.
  • Draft EIA 2020 gives legitimacy to ex-post-facto environmental clearance; reduces public participation in EIA procedure; monetize punishment for offences against the environment and exempt 40 different projects and industries from prior-environmental clearance and prior-environment permission.
  • India’s youth is increasingly aware of environment and climate change issues and have started taking to social media platforms to amplify their voices and demonstrate their protests.
  • In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, we need to rebuild better and support more sustainable ways of living rather than ‘race to the bottom’ to weaken environmental protections to attract investments and businesses.

Authors

Nishant Sirohi

Nishant is a Law and Society Fellow at Tandem Research. He is trained as an advocate, and his research interest is in the relationship between constitution law, human rights and development - issues of poverty, national and global inequalities and environmental challenges. Previously, he worked as a Research Assistant at the Chamber of Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, Supreme Court of India (January 2019 - April 2020). Nishant completed his B.A., LL.B. (Honours) from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh in June 2017 and a Post-Graduate Diploma in International Law & Diplomacy from the Indian Society of International Law, New Delhi (2018 – 2019).

Shantha Venugopal

Shantha Venugopal is an intern at Tandem Research. She is currently working on the Future Cities Initiative and is writing a research paper regarding data justice and data collection with a focus on surveillance cameras. She is a rising sophomore at Wellesley College, Boston, majoring in Political Science and tentatively minoring in Peace and Justice studies. In her spare time she listens to funk and jazz and enjoys painting wall murals.