Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is defined by the UNEP as a method used to determine the environmental, social, and economic implications of a project prior to decision-making. It tries to forecast environmental consequences early in project planning and design, discover ways and means to mitigate negative impacts, modify projects to fit the local environment, and give predictions and choices to decision-makers.
Importance of EIA
- Provides a cost-effective way for eliminating or reducing the negative effects of development initiatives.
- Allows decision-makers to assess the environmental impact of development activities long before the project is completed.
- Encourages the incorporation of mitigation techniques into the development strategy.
- Ensures that the development plan is environmentally sound and within the boundaries of the ecosystem’s capacity for absorption and regeneration.
- Reduced Time for Public Hearings: Public involvement is an important element in the EIA Mechanism. The 2020 draft suggests reducing the notice time for public hearings from 30 to 20 days. However, considering the rise of the internet and mobile phones, the MoEFCC claims to be “up to date.”
- Post-clearance compliance: It means that once a project has been cleared by the relevant authorities, the proponent projects must follow specific guidelines outlined in the EIA report to guarantee that no more environmental damage occurs.
- Annual Report Submission: The current draught EIA recommends submitting compliance reports annually, whereas the 2006 notice required compliance reports to be submitted every six months. Allowing a longer term for filling up the compliance report, according to environmental experts, will allow project proponents to hide severe repercussions that may go undiscovered.
- Report Written Purely by Project Proponents: Meanwhile, the filing of the compliance report will be prepared solely by the project proponents, which, without monitoring and review, may result in erroneous information being presented on the project.
- No Public Reporting of Non-Compliance: The EIA Notification 2020 prohibits the public from reporting infractions and non-compliance. Instead, only reports from the violator-promoter, government authority, Appraisal Committee, or Regulatory Authority would be considered by the government.
- Post-facto Clearance: Another key provision in the draught 2020 is to provide ‘post-facto permission,’ which allows a project that has been functioning without environmental approval to be regularised or permitted to seek for clearance.
- Exemption of Projects: Additionally, by categorising a number of projects as A, B1, and B2, a slew of projects are shielded from public scrutiny. Unlike Category A and B1 projects, Category B2 projects do not require obligatory Environment Clearance (EC).
- The proposal provides no solution to the political and bureaucratic stranglehold on the EIA process and, by extension, on companies. Instead, it advocates increasing the government’s discretionary authority while reducing public participation in environmental protection.
- The reduction in the public hearing notice time from 30 to 20 days would simply make it more difficult to read the draught EIA report, especially because it is not widely available or offered in the regional language.
- While initiatives involving national defence and security are automatically deemed crucial, the government has the authority to designate other projects as “strategic.”
- The Floodgates of Violations are Opened
- Instead of shortening the time allotted for public consultation, the ministry should prioritise guaranteeing access to information and raising knowledge about the public hearing and its implications for the whole EIA process.
- To increase the ease of doing business, the government should reduce the average wait of 238 days in providing environmental clearance, which is caused by bureaucratic delays and complicated rules.
- Growing now and sustaining later should not be the policy, since it is dangerously antithetical to the concept of sustainable development.
How to structure
- Give an intro about Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Mention the proposed changes
- Explain how the changes can affect the fight against climate change in a negative manner
- Suggest way forward and conclude