The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs have raised several concerns about the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020 and have asked the government how its provisions correspond with India’s obligations under international law.
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A communication dated August 31 and posted on the United Nations Human Rights Council website by UN Special Rapporteurs on clean, healthy and sustainable environment; on human rights; on right to food; on safe drinking water and sanitation stated that certain provisions of the notification could impact the effectiveness and transparency of the environmental regulatory framework in India.
The three important issues raised by UN Special Rapporteurs are:
• The draft notification includes under Clauses 14 (2) and 26 an exemption of several large industries and projects from public consultation — as part of the environment impact assessment process — such as chemical manufacturing and petroleum products; building, construction and area development; inland waterways and expansion or widening of national highways. “These exemptions are unwarranted given the substantial environmental and human rights negative impacts that can arise from projects in these areas,” they have said.
• The draft notification does not require publication of information or holding of public consultation for projects labelled by the Central government as ‘involving strategic considerations’. “Regrettably, the draft notification does not provide clarification regarding the criteria for categorizing projects ‘strategic’ by the Central Government and hence could be open to excessively broad interpretations,” they have observed.
• The rapporteurs have cited that a clause on “post-facto clearance” is worrisome. These are for projects that have started without obtaining the required environmental clearances or permissions. “This practice contradicts basic principles related to the environmental rule of law,” they have pointed out. “As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for the observations of the Indian government on the following matters: Please provide any additional information and/or any comment(s) you may have on the issues raised? How do the provisions of the draft notification correspond with India’s obligations under international law?” the communication stated.
HT has sought a response from the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on the UN communication. This copy will be updated with their response.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, 500 scientists, researchers, and academics from the country’s leading institutions such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) wrote an open letter to the MoEFCC and urged it to withdraw the draft EIA, notification, 2020. They claimed that the move would threaten the country’s ecological and environmental security. “It’s going to take us a while to read through the objections we have received. A committee has been set up to study the objections that have come to us. The draft will not be finalised anytime soon,” said Geeta Menon, joint secretary, MoEFCC.
The ministry had received around two lakh objections to the draft EIA notification, 2020 until August 11, which was the last date for the submission of comments and feedback.