National Fishworkers Forum flays draft Environmental Impact Assessment

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The National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) has flayed the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 for containing clauses that were “unconstitutional”, rewarded violators and diluted regulatory powers by rendering a discretionary tenor to existing mandatory norms.

In a memorandum to Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javedkar, the NFF chairperson M. Ilango, stated that the proposed amendments in the EIA notification were devoid of scientific basis and have been developed without any comprehensive impact assessment.

“We believe the proposed amendments are in violation of our constitutionally guaranteed rights under Article 21, Article 48A and Article 51-A(g). We demand a complete recall of the proposed draft and register our strong protest against any dilution of the existing provisions of the EIA notification 2006,” he said.

According to the NFF, the proposal to give permissions for fencing and levelling without comprehensive study in the EIA and consideration by experts of EAC as flawed. Levelling involves transformation of a landscape. The low-lying areas which may be natural drain channels, marshlands or waterbodies can get filled up and changed due to levelling work thus impacting local ecology.

Besides, the condition for collecting a baseline data study or one season study for an EIA was also flawed, unscientific and unacceptable as only a three season study could give a better picture of seasonal variations and help predict impacts.

The NFF also opposed the substitution in Para 13 subclause 11 of EIAs with EMPs for category B2 projects as even a small project can have a large damaging impact in a eco fragile zones.

On public consultation, the NFF said the draft proposed to reduce the public commenting period from 30 days to 20 days and requires that the public hearing process be completed in 40 days, compared to 45 days under the 2006 notification.

While public consultation was a fundamental component, through the draft, the MoEFCC proposed to expand the list of projects that are exempt from public consultation such as modernisation of irrigation projects, all building, inland waterways, widening of national highways and all projects concerning national defence and security or involving “other strategic considerations” as determined by the Central government.

In the case of post facto approvals, the NFF felt 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 seems like the purpose of this notification is to legitimise illegalities done by industries.”

The NFF contended that the draft also seemed to be appeasing the business and economic interests over environmental interests. The new notification requires the promoter to submit a report only once every year. This leaves a lot of room for promoters to pick and choose the data and information which is to be supplied.

“This version of the notification will only weaken India’s environmental governance and puts our collective environmental fate at huge risk,” the NFF chairperson said.

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