EIA: Citizens engage with environment policy | HT Editorial
The government must, seriously, consider all suggestions and criticismsUpdated: Aug 13, 2020 18:50 IST
The Union environment ministry received 1.7 million comments, suggestions, and objections to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2020 till August 1. While the Centre claimed that the new EIA draft reinforces transparency, environmental experts, politicians, and civil society have argued that it neglects the balance between development and environment protection.
Three issues made the process of consultations challenging. First, the Centre rushed through the critical public consultation process when the pandemic put restrictions on meetings (the Delhi High Court extended the last date for filing objections). Second, the government was seen as attempting to muzzle the voices of young environmentalists. And third, the draft was not translated into regional languages which could have allowed more citizens to participate. (The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the environment ministry to publish EIA in regional languages.)
Despite these obstacles, the deliberations on the draft EIA saw an overwhelming involvement of the citizens. This is positive because a robust consultation process can push the government to look into the issue comprehensively and raise environmental awareness. The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, controlled by the Centre, will now review the suggestions. The final draft will be placed before a committee, headed by a former director of the organisation. To ensure the final draft is balanced, the second leg of the process must be transparent, public, and include independent experts. Aim for a robust EIA, for environmental safeguards cannot be sacrificed at the altar of immediate political and economic considerations.