“The draft EIA is friendly for industries and eats into the basic rights of protecting the forests guaranteed under the Constitution. The Centre is continuing to weaken the Environment Acts and Conservation rules,” KVRK Thirunaranan, founder, The Nature Trust, told DT Next.
The Centre has sought comments from the public on the draft notification mooted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which will soon replace the EIA notification of 2006. Now the matter has reached the court and is subjudice.
The draft EIA 2020 has diluted the stringent norms that were followed before. “The objective of the EIA was to protect the forest and eco-sensitive areas. But now availing an EIA has become easier despite public protests. Projects that are opposed by the public should not be encouraged and the public should be consulted when any major development work is taken in protected forests,” opined Thirunaranan, an avid bird watcher.
Activists from Poovulagin Nanbargal, a Chennai-based NGO, said that the new draft EIA takes away the process of public consultation. “The draft allows to setup more than 25 red and orange industries, which can be highly toxic to environment, without the need for pubic consultations,” said G Sundarrajan from Poovulagin Nanbargal.
Environmentalists also alleged that the new draft, if implemented, would pave the way for construction of dams, mining projects, thermal power plants, roadways, airports and helipads around the ecologically sensitive areas.
“The purpose of the notification is to regulate the illegalities done by industries. But this EIA will be a death knell for protected forests. There were days where Silent Valley in Coimbatore and Kudremukh park in Karnataka were protected from the political parties through Environment Protection Act. But now the policies and the rules are frequently amended reducing the statutory powers conferred under the law,” said a district forest officer, admitting that EIA amendments would do more harm to forests.
Several online campaigns are now being carried out by environmentalists against the draft EIA, 2020. On Sunday, #withdrawEIA2020 had been trending in Twitter with more than 32,000 tweets.