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‘Real environmental concerns should be basis of amendments’
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, June 30 - In reply to the gazette notification on the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, the Ellora Vigyan Mancha (EVM) has sent its response to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) stressing that real environmental concerns should be the basis of EIA amendments, instead of superfluous concerns like Ease of Doing Business (EoDB).

 On March 23, the Centre had published a draft notification on environmental impact assessment and sought objections or suggestions from members of the public.

In a comprehensive five-page note, EVM stated that amendments to the EIA, 2006 are definitely required, but not along the line the ministry proposes. EIA notifications must be based on good scientific considerations and not on any extraneous concerns like Ease of Doing Business (EoDB).

“Climate change stemming from increased greenhouse gas emissions has become the most defining environmental issue facing humanity, unleashing multitude of natural disasters – including cyclonic storms, floods, droughts, landslides, etc., – whose frequency and intensity are on the rise. Other critical human-driven environmental issues include loss of biodiversity, land degradation and changes in hydrology, all of which are causing significant loss to society directly and indirectly,” the EVM stated.

It further said that the government seems to be guided by the ‘overarching’ priority of Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) and environmental concerns appear to be subordinate to it.

Environmental degradation also results in disturbances or loss in biodiversity, which are suspected to be the main reasons behind viral infections, including the present COVID-19 pandemic.

The State of Assam and the North East as a whole, have been witnessing severe environmental degradation in recent times due to lapses and failures of the authorities concerned and also due to a paradigm shift on policy matters. The Baghjan oil-gas blowout and blaze and also the recent order of the NGT in this context are very much alive in the minds of the people of the region and any undue relaxations in environmental norms are likely to create widespread discontent in the North East, the Mancha added in its observations.

It also expressed concern on certain clauses incorporated in the draft notifications including Clause 3(8) where river dredging has been excluded from its ambit. “It is strongly urged that the term ‘Capital Dredging’ include sea as well as rivers and other fresh water bodies,” the Mancha mentioned. It expressed concern over other clauses like Clause 3 (26) dealing with project proponents, Clause 5 (7) related to national defence and security, Clause 14 (public consultation), Clause 14 (2) (public consultation on projects for national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, etc.,), Clause 22 (violation of the rules, especially project implementation without any prior environmental clearance) and Clause 26 (19) (coal and non-coal mineral), etc.

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