Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification is Pushing ‘Investment at Any Cost’ 

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification to replace the current notification which goes back to 2006. The new draft is still at the stage of public comments and it is essential that its provisions be vigorously debated so that the dilution of norms it envisages does not become official policy.

The concept of EIA came to India in 1978-79 but became mandatory only in 1994 – after the government notified it as a requirement under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. As the name suggests, an EIA is supposed to consider the environmental impact of projects and find ways to reduce their adverse impact upon the environment. An EIA also involves the people concerned in the decision-making process of granting final approval to any developmental project or activity. 

Backstory: Rules riddled with loopholes

One major change effected by the 2006 EIA regulation was an increase in the number of projects requiring environmental clearance. Apart from this, the notification engaged states in granting clearance for projects mentioned in Schedule I, and mandated the formation of a state-level appraisal committee (SEAC), the recommendations of which were to be considered before granting approval. The responsibility of conducting public hearings was given to the pollution control boards instead of the proponents of the project.

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The author is a research scholar at IIT Kharagpur (RGSOIPL). He has completed his masters in international law from South Asian University, New Delhi.