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A SUM UP OF THE EIA NOTIFICATION 2020

Introduction

One of the most frequently used words in the year 2020 is, “EIA, 2020.” Environmentalists, ecologists, activists, and icing to all that, responsible citizens are raising their voices against EIA, 2020. This ultimately poses three questions: What?; Why?; and How? To come with answers for the said questions, we must understand the concept of environment’s technical evaluation. In our country, the following are the prominent statutes concerning the environmental crisis, namely: The Environment Protection Act, 1986; The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010; The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. We have specific legislations to look into the specific issues of environmental crises. However, this article focuses on the meaning and origin of EIA, the categorization of projects, the Environment Impact Assessment report, and the reasons for agitations from the general public/criticizations.

Meaning and Origin

Before the execution of an anticipated project, the environment impact assessment facilitates the evaluation of both positive and negative environmental impacts that will necessarily arise after the execution of the said project. This mode of evaluation prevents us from harming the environment and from paying for the same. This EIA draft is in existence today because of the power exercised by the Central Government under section 3(1), 3(2)(v),and section 23 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 along with sub-rule 3(d) and/or rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. The EIA Notification, 2020 provides for the constitution of Accredited Environment Impact Assessment Consultant Organization and construes the Environment Impact Assessment as a report encompassing draft EIA report (prepared for public consultation) and final EIA report (prepared after public consultation) as under section 3(3) and (23), respectively.

The notification enables the setting up of various committees at different levels to look into the issues of assessment in different levels. Section 6 provides for the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), section 7 provides for the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority or Union Territory Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, section 8 provides for the State or Union Territory or District Level Expert Appraisal Committee, and lastly, section 9 provides for the Technical Expert Committee.

The Need for the Categorization of Project

EIA, 2020 classifies the projects or activities listed in the schedule into three categories: Category ‘A’; Category ‘B1’; and Category ‘B2’based on its requirement for Prior Environment Clearance or Prior Environment Permission under section 4. There are six stages in Prior Environment Clearance process for Category ‘A’ or Category ‘B1’ as enumerated under section 10(1) and three stages in Prior Environment Clearance process and Prior Environment Permission process for Category ‘B2’ as per its peculiar requirement to be and not be placed before Appraisal Committee under section 10(2) and (3), respectively. Section 11 illustrates the process of application for Prior Environment Clearance or Prior Environment Permission. Furthermore, sections 16, 17,18 and 19 entails the procedure for grant of Prior Environment Clearance for modernization, the grant or rejection of Prior Environment Clearance, the associated amendments, and the validity of Prior Environment Clearance or Prior Environment Permission, respectively. Sections 20 and 21 focus on the Monitoring of post project prior-EC or prior-EP and Transferability of Prior-EC or Prior-EP. Lastly, section 25 throws light on the appeal, within a period of thirty days, against the Prior Environment Clearance or Prior Environment Permission granted by the Regulatory Authority which shall lie before the National Green Tribunal. The said sections sum up the need for categorizing projects.

The Environment Impact Assessment Report

Section 13 of the EIA Notification, 2020 explains the preparation of environment impact assessment report. Firstly, the baseline data, which is defined under section 10(5) has to be collected as per the protocols issued by EIA Guidance manuals. Secondly, the same shall be collected for one season other than monsoon except for River Valley projects. Thirdly, with respect to River Valley projects, the baseline data has to be collected for one year including monsoon. Fourthly, the involvement of an environment laboratory duly notified under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is stated. Fifthly, the secondary data can be taken at par with baseline date for the projects proposed beyond 12 Nautical Miles. The aforementioned baseline data can be collected at any stage without giving due regards to the application for the scoping. For expansion or modernization of the projects, the post-project monitoring data shall also be collected. The generic structure given at Appendix-X must be followed for preparing the EIA report. Draft EIA report shall be prepared for the purpose of public consultation and Final EIA Report for the purpose of appraisal. The format specified at Appendix XIII must be adhered to. Lastly, no EIA report shall be required for the projects listed under Category ‘B2’. But, the same is subjected to an exception.

Criticization

The draft EIA, 2020 is predominantly criticized for lessening the notice period for public hearings. Duration of 10 days is a matter of deal since it will reduce the participation of the public and the most affected will be the already affected group whose screaming are not loud enough. It empowers the Central Government to appoint state environment impact assessment authorities and the given power is vulnerable to take advantage of the same. It, furthermore, is liberal regarding the evaluation to a list of projects. However, the criteria for basing such liberality are not mentioned. Construction projects are squeezed under Category B2 and thereby, they have got a way to get away from scrutinization. India is a party to the Rio declaration, United Nations Framework on Climate Change, and Convention on Biological Diversity. Thereby, there is a mandation that it must abide by the principles enshrined in the international treaties and conventions. But, the EIA 2020 skips a beat. Adding on, the definition of certain words is purposefully made sure to give more than one interpretation. Apart from the above said, there is still scope for further criticizing the draft.

Conclusion

The EIA notification 2006 is now being superseded by the draft EIA 2020. Although the draft is open for criticization, the incorporation of exclusive committees is one feature that is commendable. The entire end in view must be to protect the environment and not to make this world a worst place to live. But, with the new policy, if implemented, it will snatch away the public’s hand over decision making. The EIA Notification, 2020 cannot be implemented with the notion of experimenting it since we are not privileged with “Earth B.” However, the country and its people will not object the implementation of the said policy if it were to benefit this mother Earth and us. Every policy and every other phenomenon in the atmosphere is agathokakological by nature. So, the duty is ours to segmentize the good and the bad, and to facilitate the operation of any phenomenon to the best interest of living beings.

View/ Download the Notification :The EIA Notification, 2020

– Jumanah Kader (School of Law, SASTRA Deemed to be University).

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