Environment Impact Assessment Flaws | UPSC
Will environment regulation be weakened?
WHY IN NEWS:
What are the key changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification compared to the past?
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Environmental Impact Assessment
For PRELIMS you have to understand the issues related to new amendments in EIA draft .
For MAINS relate this with the consequences of climate change and global warming .
ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT
- The government wants to incorporate modifications made to the regulations through amendments in the interim period.
- There is also a provision for public consultation in the rules.
- Interested persons can also give opinions and raise objections, based on the draft EIA report.
HOW DOES THE DRAFT EIA NOTIFICATION DIFFER FROM THE ONE NOW IN FORCE?
- Among the major departures from existing regulations is the removal of several activities from the purview of public consultation.
THE PROJECTS UNDER THIS CATEGORY ARE
- Offshore and onshore oil exploration
- Gas and shale exploration
- Hydroelectric projects up to 25 MW
- Irrigation projects between 2,000
- Small and medium mineral beneficiation units
- Small foundries involving furnace units
- Some categories of re-rolling mills
- Small and medium cement plants
- Small clinker grinding units
- Acids other than phosphoric or ammonia, sulphuric acid
- Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in dye and
- Bulk drugs
- Synthetic rubbers
- Medium-sized paint units
- All inland waterway projects
- Expansion or widening of highways between 25 km and 100 km with defined parameters
- Aerial ropeways in ecologically sensitive areas
- Specified building construction and area development projects.
- Also, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar projects do not need prior environmental clearance in the new scheme.
WHAT ARE THE APPREHENSIONS?
- LESS PUBLIC CONSULTATION : There is unease on exemption from EIA and public consultation over the above list mentioned.
- OVERNIGHT MODERNISATION : Expansion and modernisation projects will seriously affect the environment, since these will be carried out without oversight.
- WEAK REGULATIONS : Combined with a new provision for post-facto environmental clearance this would further weaken protections.
- SHORT NOTICE PERIOD : Moreover, the notice period for public hearing has been cut from 30 days to 20 days.
- LIMITED LANGUAGES : This will make it difficult to study the draft EIA report, more so when it is not widely available or provided in the regional language.
- LIBERAL NORMS : For project modernisation and expansion, the norms in Notification 2020 are liberal, with only those involving more than 25% increase requiring EIA, and over 50% attracting public consultation.
- ANNUAL PROJECT REPORTS : Under the proposed changes, project proponents need to submit only one annual report on compliance with conditions, compared to the existing two.
- COMPLIANCE DEFICITS : The CAG found in 2016 that the deficiency in semi-annual compliance reporting was between 43% and 78%, while failure to comply with conditions ranged from 5% to 57%.
- Gas leak at LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam on May 7, the Environment Ministry told the National Green Tribunal that the unit lacked environment clearance, exposing the low effectiveness of rules.
POST-FACTO APPROVAL OF VIOLATIONS
- The EIA Notification 2020 excludes reporting by the public of violations and non-compliance.
- Instead, the government will take cognisance of reports only from the violator-promoter, government authority, Appraisal Committee or Regulatory Authority.
DRAFT COMPARISON WITH GLOBAL NORMS?
- EIA rules must meet the requirements of the precautionary principle of avoiding harm, and intergenerational equity.
- The European Union, as an evolving example, has modified its processes in accordance with the Aarhus Convention, 1998.
- The EU Directive on EIA includes climate change and biodiversity concerns.
- Sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders and government accountability.
- Environmental protection are connected, and interactions between the public and public authorities must take place in a democratic context.
The rules in India, including EIA 2006 can be argued, privileged the interests of the project proponent by whittling down public consultations, accepting flawed and faulty EIA reports resulting from external influences, and ignoring the non-renewable nature of resources.