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The EIA notification is important for environmental protection, public health and workers safety. It is appalling that the Ministry has proposed to dilute the notification and seek public comments in the midst of the COVID 19 emergency.
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Shri Prakash Javadekar
Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Indira Paryavaran Bhawan
Jor Bagh, New Delhi
Dear Mr. Javadekar,
The Environment Ministry had put out a draft EIA notification, 2020 on 12.3.2020 and sought comments from the public within sixty days from this date. Since 1994, this notification has been an important tool for the legal assessment of social and environmental impacts of development projects and for organising public participation before the setting up or expansion of industrial and infrastructure projects in the country.
It is appalling that the Ministry has put out a draft notification for public comments in the midst of a global economic and public health emergency. Even the new deadline makes no difference. This makes us deeply concerned about your priorities. When this notification was released, the US, Europe and India were already looking at an alarming situation due to the combined effects of an economic slowdown and a massive burden on the public system. Soon after, most countries including ours went into a lockdown which imposed severe restrictions on the movement of people in public places.
Today, even most offices are closed and staff are working from home. These restrictions may be indefinite and it is not clear when public life and work can resume as before. The long-term public health, social and economic impacts of this global pandemic are not known yet. Right now, most people in both urban and rural areas are fully occupied in just managing food, jobs, incomes and mental and physical health.
As you have probably realised, the shutting of many activities during this lockdown has improved the air quality in major cities and rivers are flowing relatively clean and free. This should show you that your system of regulating industrial and human activity has failed to protect our air and water from chemical toxins. From news articles, we also know that the ministry is still giving approvals to more mining, more industries, more mega constructions and more highways. These will destroy more forests, pollute more water sources, occupy more farm land, public space and coastal areas. You are doing this by using the EIA notification and other environmental laws.
Yet for several affected people, the EIA regulation remains the only mechanism to ensure that project developers disclose the details of project design and impacts and that these projects are legally mandated to mitigate impacts and adhere to legal safeguards.
Now you propose to make regressive changes to the EIA notification at a time when we simply cannot respond to your call for public comments. Even the new deadline of June 30th is unfair. Is this democratic? Is this fair? Is this even humane to make us more anxious about our environmental futures when we are struggling to cope with this corona virus, this lockdown and the suffering of millions of our people?
In public interest, we, the public, demand the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the Draft EIA notification 2020.
We hope that when this COVID emergency is behind all of us, the Environment Ministry will learn from the crisis and bring in amendments to the EIA notification that strengthen the role of environmental and social protection of all people and nature instead of justifying the present forms of harmful development.Thanks and regards,