Draft EIA 2020: Recap & Review

2020 is the year of our reckoning. And the voice of protests against the Draft EIA Notification 2020 has only grown louder and more vociferous in the last few days. The woke citizens, protesting the retrograde environmental decisions that pursue a profoundly unsustainable development agenda, now more agitated. As we reach the August-11th threshold set forth by the Delhi High Court today, we lay bare the contentious issues underlying the faulty policy upgrade. Here’s a quick reckoner to all that’s come to pass, and all that’s to be expected in the future.


The great controversy first stirred the Indian conscience when scientists, activists and concerned citizens red-flagged the fine print of the proposed Draft EIA Notification 2020, which gave more cause for concern than relief. What was meant to be a policy shift from the now-dated 2006 Notification, is ironically believed to be ‘anti-people’ because of glaring loopholes that threaten India’s fragile environment cover. No rational Indian would sign up for such a bogus deal in the name of development.

To recount, the proposed Draft has exempted almost 40 different types of large-scale projects from prior environment clearances and environmental provisions. Several projects are exempted from public consultation — a vital peg of participative democracy. Due to glaring misgivings with regards to environmental oversight, the issue rakes up impassioned responses. To add fuel to the fire, the notice period for the public hearing are reduced from 30 to 20 days. Further, the validity period of environmental clearances for mining, river valley and other projects, has also been increased. These stifling regulations favour the interests of the project proponent, while largely ignoring the concerns of all other stakeholders — the environment, the citizens, the future generations.


Earlier, we had extensively reported how three youth platforms seeking climate justice — Fridays For Future India, Let India Breathe and There Is No Earth B — were arbitrarily taken down on the recommendation of India’s NIXI (National Internet Exchange of India) last month. None of the aforementioned were provided the exact reasons behind this bizarre censorship. Most well-meaning netizens were surprised as well because green-causes rightly find support from either side of the great political divide. Moreover, the three green groups comprising mostly of students, activists and scientists, were only involved with fact-checked, dissemination of information related to the Notification.


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In July, the Delhi Police in response to the three RTIs filed by the banned websites revealed that they were taken down under the Information Technology Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention_ Act because they were ‘dangerous to the peace and sovereignty of the country.’ This Notice, later revealed to be a gaff, stemmed after the Minister of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar had complained receiving thousands of emails objecting to the EIA 2020. The police, meanwhile, embarrassingly passed off the ban under the provisions of UAPA as a ‘clerical error’ only to reissue the notice under the IT Act. Before long, however, the three websites were reinstated to avoid further public outrage, in the process resulting in the loss of 26 days when precious feedback could have been garnered.


So what happens when woke citizens of the country discover they won’t receive a forthcoming government response? They approach the courts. Three High Court rulings in different parts of the country have set the record straight on the subject within the last one year. First, the Delhi High Court extended the June 30th deadline for public feedback on the proposed policy to August 11 ie to today. Secondly, on July 23 the Karnataka High Court had ordered the government to print the draft in all regional languages as well as provide ‘wide publicity’ on the proposal. In fact, the court had also asked that the date of filing public objections and suggestions go beyond August 11. On August 5, the Karnataka HC stayed the publication of the EIA Notification 2020 till the next hearing slated for September 7. Thirdly, the Madras HC in response to a PIL asked the central government whether it could translate the draft law in Tamil to make the process more participatory in the wake of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The PIL, distinctly different from the earlier Karnataka HC petition, cites how the unavailability of documents in regional languages, impede the citizen’s fundamental duty to ‘protect and improve’ the natural environment under the Article %!A(g) of the Indian constitution. The next hearing is set two days from now on this case in Chennai.


Today on August 11, we have much reason to be concerned and pensive. It’s the last date as extended by the Delhi HC to submit your objections and feedback on the failing environmental proposal to the government. Already over 400,000 responses have been filed as per the previous Karnataka HC revealings.

Several netizens have further reported that emails have started to bounce back the official address provided by the Ministry to seek these objections. Emails sent to [email protected]mefc[email protected], and [email protected] have reportedly been returning due to an “invalid recipient address.” Whether via a technical glitch or by intent, this is predictably bad news for those still wanting to send in their objections. The government is clearly in the dock yet again.

Nonetheless, if you have been late to the party, now is still the time to send in your objections and feedback to the powers that be because the said policy impacts not just the 1.2 billion people living in the country, but also the many future generations to come.

© 2020 Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.

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