(The following is an article from a friend who wants to share his views on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and chose this blog as a medium for it. – Anisha)
Kudos to all the readers! I’m here to share of EIA 2020 without any prejudices. This article is going to be the summary of the panel discussion that we had in our college, including my personal opinions. All sorts of discussions and comments are welcome for better understanding and awareness.
I am not a pro in the environment sector and I am learning day by day. I don’t belong to any party or agency, and I am pursuing PGDFM from the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.
I would like to take this discussion forward in simply 2 categories:
- Advantages and improved measures
- Areas to improve in EIA 2020
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Environmental assessment is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, India notified its first EIA norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources.
‘So-called’ advantages and improved measures
➼ Heavy penalty for violators
All of us can remember the recent gas leak in LG polymers, Vishakhapatnam. It is one of the evident events that many such companies are not following the environmental regulations but paying heavy fines upon catastrophe.
The company has been violating environmental laws for decades. In 2018, it has applied to the experts’ appraisal committee for expanding its operations. Before the committee could take a call, the gas leak happened and now the plant is shut. A ₹50 crore (500 million rupees) fine imposed, and criminal proceedings are underway against company officials.
Another good example is Union Carbide. For those who don’t remember, it’s the reason for a gas leak in Bhopal in 1984. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the firm settled $2 million to the disaster relief fund of the Indian government.
A heavy penalty is being showcased as an equivalent to environmental impact. But shouldn’t we be precautious and proactive instead?
➼ The categorisation of projects into A, B1, and B2
All development projects requiring environment clearance are categorised into three 3 categories, i.e. A, B1, B2. Category ‘A’ and category ‘B’ projects are appraised at the national level and state level respectively. But the point to be noted here is the projects listed in category B2 don’t require an EIA and will be required to submit only post facto clearance.
The projects under the B2 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.
- Small foundries involving furnace units, some categories of re-rolling mills.
- Small and medium cement plants.
- Small clinker grinding units.
- Acids other than phosphoric or ammonia, sulphuric acid.
- Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in dye and dye intermediates.
- Bulk drugs, synthetic rubbers, medium-sized paint units.
- All inland waterway projects, expansion, or widening of highways between 25km and 100km with defined parameters.
- Aerial ropeways in ecologically sensitive areas.
Though only projects including national security and other small and conventional are listed in this category, in the longer run, the effects of these in the environment will take centuries to nullify.
Areas to improve in EIA 2020
➼ Post-facto clearance
As stated earlier, the post-facto clearance in practical sense inclines towards normalising the effects on the environment with other able methods like Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), penalty, subsidising to employees, etc.
All projects in B2 category have to be mandated for EIA.
➼ Public hearing time reduction
The time for public hearings from the local people has been reduced from 30 days to 20 days. Improvement in communication in the present days is showed as the justification for the same. But there is no answer to why can’t it be translated to all regional languages and circulated across India for opinions?
Also, let us have a quick overview of the other counties with equal or better communication system than India with respect to public hearings.
- Finland provides 4 weeks for public discussion of the EIA programme and 7 weeks for discussion of the EIA report.
- In the United Kingdom, for marine dredging projects, a period of 10 weeks is allowed for an initial consultation. A further period of 6 weeks is allowed to comment on the initial consultation summary and any supplement to the environmental statement prepared in response to these consultations.
- In Croatia and in Italy, EIA documentation is available to the public during a period of 30 days.
It would have been better if it is circulated in all regional languages and got opinions from public with sufficient time. The public hearing has to be retained at 30 days.
➼ Complaints will be received by expert appraisal committee or government agency for B2 projects.
This is directly questioning the transparency of the new projects. In the world’s biggest democracy, the local people cannot raise their voice in case they’ve found it is going to affect their livelihood and society.
For all the listed projects in A, B1, and B2, at any time public have to be given the right to file a complaint, in case if anything is wrong.
➼ B2 category exclusion
The projects listed in the category B2 have to be minimised and restricted only to those in borders and any others involving national security since they compromise the environmental impacts in many places. So, the exclusion of EIA should not be extended to any other normal projects.
Development is necessary but not at the cost of depleting natural resources and harming the environment. The damages have to be as low as possible so that we can sustainably grow over a long period of time.
If you feel this relevant and you have any suggestions in the draft of EIA 2020, you can mail to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change at the email id: EIA2020email@example.com on or before 11th Aug 2020. You can read about the key changes in the EIA draft notification of 2020 from these articles in The Hindu and The Print.
Any suggestions on the article are most welcome. Signing off with a quote…
“Earth is my only home and it is dying!”