Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar termed the opposition’s criticism of the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020 as ‘unnecessary and premature’.
Javadekar was engaged in a Twitter debate over the Draft EIA by former environment minister and Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh. Javadekar’s comments came on Monday, a day prior to the deadline of sending views and objections on the draft.
“As per rules, only 60 days notice is to be given, but owing to Covid-19, we extended it up to 150 days. Thousands have sent their views, but some are overeager and hence they are protesting. People jumping at the draft [EIA] is not a fair practice. It is just a draft right now, we will take a call on these views and then it will be finalized,” Javadekar said on the sidelines of the ministry’s World Elephant Day celebrations.
Javadekar accused the UPA government of not consulting people on key decisions concerning the environment. “The earlier regime took many of these decisions without any public consultations. I have mentioned this in my letter and reply to Jairam Ramesh. This is all unnecessary and premature,” he added.
Jairam Ramesh was not the only Congressman to criticize the draft EIA. Former Congress President and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi also tweeted against the draft law and put up a Facebook post, alleging that the government’s move will deprive communities of a fair say in decision making. And it will pave the way for the destruction of the country’s natural resources, he added.
Not only political parties, but the draft notification has also faced intense criticism from environmental activists, groups, campaigners and students. They alleged the notification of diluting some of the provisions that exist in the current form of the EIA notification, 2006.
The EIA notification is one of the bedrocks of environmental governance in the country, it lays down the process of scoping, scrutiny and evaluation of developmental projects based on their size and nature of the activity.
Jairam has criticized the draft on a number of counts. Among his criticisms, noted in a letter to Javadekar, he included the decision to allow post-facto approvals to projects that had no clearances and had violated green laws. “It allows for post-facto approvals which go against the very principle of assessment and public participation prior to environment clearance and has provisions that will routinely legitimize illegality,” Jairam had said.
In response, Javadekar had said that this was being done to bring such projects involving violations under regulation.
Environmental campaigners have also criticized the ministry’s decision for publishing the draft law during the Covid-19 lockdown period in March. In connection with the same, two separate litigations have been filed against the draft law, in the Delhi High Court and Karnataka High Court.
The Karnataka HC, last week, ordered a stay on the finalisation of the draft and asked the central government to refrain from publishing the final notification until September 7. Meanwhile, Delhi HC has ordered the Centre to publish the draft notification in other Indian languages that are mentioned in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution.