The draft Environmental Impact Assessment-2020 notification brought out recently under the leadership of Mr PrakashJavadekar, Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change, aims for freedom from over-regulation for the growth of an environmentally sustainable eco-system. The provisions of this notification can fully take care of wheels of development without compromising the quality of environment.

Members of various Expert Assessment Committees are competent to do due diligence in the interests of the environment and development. It will be a landmark notification to regulate the environment while simultaneously acting as a tool to protect our common future to ensure a sustainable ecosystem.

The Draft EIA-2020 notification has been prepared to demonstrate absolute integrity and transparency with utmost care for Sustainable Development wherein industrial developmentremains in harmony with nature.

The EIA 2020 draft notification is fair for business, and offers an unbiased, balanced protocol to provide credible information for decision making by experts of repute for ensuring environmental safeguards through EACs.

The notification is aimed at meeting all applicable provisions of international treaties on environment, forests and climate change to which India is a party and honours directions and judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. India does follow the “Precautionary Principle” on Environment.

At the same time, we should not forget that in the industrial world, accidents do happen globally – on earth, in the sea and in the air, including space, in spite of the best the best preventive systemshaving been put in place.

We can narrate a long list of such examples.Prevailing law will take the appropriate decisions and tough actions against OIL and LG Visakhapatnam.

We should not forget that improvement in any system is a continuous and dynamic process. The government’s actions as well as intentions on Environmental Regulations are perfectly in tune with its “bon mots and rhetorical” decisions taken in the best interests of the country without compromising on the quality of environment, including preventive environmental risks.Several important points deserve consideration.

  • There are several, well-elaborated prevailing systems/rules in place for traffic violations, financial violations and other kind of violations/offences in the country but people still have highest regard and confidence for the prescribed regulations and there is no room for any malpractice.Similarly, with the environment such regulations on violation are always the need of the hour, to be perceived in advance to address the issue. Elaborate provisions have been proposed by the committee of experts to address such explicit issues of intentional and unintentional nature with provision of commensurate penalty, so that country’s environment and development do not suffer. The spirit of the proposed provisions in the category is strong enough to see that environmental justice prevails and is not managed or compromised.
  • In the proposed notification, the inbuilt provisions are flexible, that is if required and based on the nature of the project, public consultation through any other appropriate mode may be recommended by the Appraisal Committee, Regulatory Committee or the Regulatory Authority, on a case-to-case basis. Experts felt that in the earlier 2006 notification, more time was given but based on experience, this period for consultation can be reduced. Hence,a judicious view was taken and the consultation time has beenreduced from 45 (2006 EIA Notification) days to 40 days (draft 2020 EIA notification).
  • The enhancement of monitoring frequency from six months to a year is an extremely progressive step and will not affect the quality of environment since the provision of online transmission of emission data (air and liquid) to the Central Pollution Control Board server is in existence, once the plant is operational. Therefore, regulatory authorities are free to act under applicable clauses or sections of EPA or Air &Water Act including closure notice,if any environmental deterioration occurs. At the same time, business can function as usual without compromising on the quality of environment.
  • Extension in the validity of mining is considered based on the availability of validity of mining leases coupled with the time required to set up the mines.This was just,necessaryand appropriate.
  • The scope of EIA regime has neither shrunk nor been downgraded. The states are being empowered by this notification and at the same time the process is streamlined to be more effective, resulting in the reduction of time in decision makingon the submitted proposals. and at the same time, the mechanism will be cost effective as PP need not visit the Ministry at Delhi, every time.
  • Near international boundaries,no industry is usually setup in the private sector except defense or oil installations which cater to the need of defence facilities. The area still remains under the defence.To have public consultations at such places will emerge as a major security threat and that is why it is inevitable to exempt the PH/PC in such areas.
  • All Ministers are bound by an oath which they take before the President of India, to perform their duties with utmost sincerity to their motherland.Therefore, the role of Ministers should not be considered as a conflict of interest when they are holding several ministerial charges or portfolios.Ministers often have a greater role even in international fora and then too, no one dares to raise the issue of Conflict of Interest. I dream more as an environmental activist while shouldering the responsibilities as Chairman of Environment Appraisal Committee.

(The writer is Chairman, Expert Appraisal Committee, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Government of India. The views expressed are personal.)