Draft EIA objections: Aaditya Thackeray says ‘voice of people and mother nature must be heard’
Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray has raised objection over the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020, issued by the Centre, citing that it “fails to align with the 2016 Paris climate agreement” and poses a threat to the “goal of sustainable growth”.
Thackeray has drawn the attention of Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar in a three-page letter and stated that the Central government must hear the voice of the locals hit hard by a project and also the “unheard voice of Mother Nature”.
The draft EIA has been facing opposition from environmentalists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and some opposition parties, who have alleged that the Central government is diluting the green clearance norms.
Thackeray’s letter pointed out his objections over several factors, including an exemption for “environmentally destructive activities such as coal prospecting, crushing, and screening of iron ore, seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration, etc.”; no public consultation for up to 50% in existing projects; and no EIA process for expansion up to 25% in ongoing ventures.
He highlighted that India is one of the most susceptible countries to climate change and it would hit hard those living in coastal areas because of rising sea levels and an increase of salinity in river waters, posing a threat to the livelihoods of millions.
“By diluting the nature and scope of scrutiny of environmental impacts of proposed projects, and by not considering climate change impact in the decision-making processes, the proposed notification goes against the mandate given to the government under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the letter stated.
It added: “The voice of the public such as the locals affected by a project
and the unheard voice of Mother Nature must be heard by the government. It is the public’s interest that must be upheld rather those of clearances, and the environment is at the core of people’s interest … I urge you to take these issues into consideration. The notification, in its present form, fails to align with the 2016 Paris climate agreement and poses a great threat to our goal of achieving sustainable growth.”
He noted that if the projects are passed in this ecologically-sensitive region such as the Konkan coast, which is home to 28 million people, without extensive public deliberations, then it would have an adverse impact on the region’s biodiversity, the livelihood of the fisher folks, and agricultural produce.
“The Sahayadris or the Western Ghats is listed in the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity. They spread across Maharashtra and five other states and are home to 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, birds and many other species,” the letter warned.
Earlier, Thackeray had opposed a coal mine proposed by Centre near the Tadoba tiger sanctuary in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district.
The ruling Shiv Sena, a part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress,
had also stopped the construction of a power plant in Ratnagiri and a Metro rail depot at ecologically-sensitive Aarey Colony in Mumbai.