Role of Environment Impact Assessment in nature conservation and why current amendments were called regressive

Today is World Nature Conservation Day and in India we know very less is being said and done to conserve nature. The only time we  are reminded of nature conservation is when we are drastically hit by some natural tragedy. The last time we raised our concern  was when  eleven people died by the drastic gas leak in Vizag.

Recently the draft bill of Environment Assessment Impact, 2020 faced a lot of condemnation from Environmental activists and philanthropists, it  was called regressive. When called out, the government opened a public window and inputs to give suggestions for the better version of Bill.

In the last update, Environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad sought extension of the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification due to the coronavirus pandemic, hence the  Delhi High Court on Tuesday extended till August 11, 2020 from what was earlier June 30.

First, Let’s know more about the background of EIA.

The EIA was set up under Environment Protection Act, 1986.The EPA came  after the drastic Bhopal Gas tragedy shattered India’s environment in 1984.Hence the first legal  EIA framework was released by 1994 which regulated the activities that may have potential to utilise, affect and pollute natural resources. For example, mining, deforestation for setting up an Industry or  even construction of a building.


Since then, every development project has been required to go through EIA and get a clearance from the government, noting that their construction causes no harm to the society. The theme of the bill was to take us forward, hence with time it gets modified. Last the changes were made in 2006 and after that it was queued to be updated this year.

Also Read : World Nature Conservation Day: Eco warriors who are paving the way for a better tomorrow

The bill was well intentioned and considerate towards environment conservation, but then what made it regressive  and pulled it backward were certain amendments that were put in the draft-

  1. Bill mentions about ‘Post -Facto clearance’ which in layman tongue would mean to get clearance from EIA, post the construction work is already done , that would technically have no value since the damage would already have been done.The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has consistently ruled against post-facto approvals.The new draft  ignores the importance of prior environment clearance. The Supreme Court also lashed out at the government on this particular amendment.
  2.  The time period for public hearing for any case related to EIA  has been brought down from 30 days earlier to 20 days now.
  3. In certain situations the government can even exempt public hearing. In particular, projects near ‘border areas’  such as roads and pipelines areas will not require any public hearing. A ‘border area’ is defined as “area falling within 100 km aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India.” Basically directing towards all the north -eastern states that are the  repository of the richest biodiversity. 
  4. The amendments of the draft law also proposes to announce some areas as ‘economically sensitive areas’, by the recommendation of MOEF&CC, which again can not be taken under the consideration of mandatory environmental and other clearances.

There are several other loopholes that are highlighted in this context.Hence, now the power to bring a shift is in hands of the public, and we can bring around a change in the law by voicing our opinions and writing it to the environment ministry. The window is open till August 11 to take in public suggestions.

At this point it is even more  relevant  to remember what Prime Minister Modi had urged us to do. Several times, he had asked us to preserve and conserve the biodiversity of India calling it as a ‘unique treasure’ for mankind.

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