In a statement, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, said that EIA 2020 is an assault on India's ecological security, environment, flora and fauna, forests, fragile ecosystems, maginalised people and future generations
Indian National Congress has alleged that the draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2020 (EIA 2020), if approved in its current form, will license and legitimise environmental damage indefinitely by monetising environmental crimes.
As the time allotted for raising public objections against the draft ends today, the Party said that the draft endangered the existing checks and balances in the form of public consultations by doing away with public hearing requirement for a large category of products.
In a statement, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that EIA 2020 is in complete negation of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 as also the judgements of the Supreme Court.
According to the statement, EIA 2020 is an assault on India's ecological security, environment, flora and fauna, forests, fragile ecosystems, maginalised people and future generations. They alleged that the BJP government has placed 'money over environment', 'expediency over transparency' and 'profit over preservation'. "The draft EIA 2020 allows the project owners to post-facto pay compensation in cases where they pollute the environment and continue their operation. This is an amnesty scheme giving a clean chit to polluters without a cut-off date," the statement said.
Stating that public consultation is an embodiment of natural justice, Congress opposed the clauses that allowed a complete go-by of public consultation and said that several category of projects like offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration have been recategorised to avoid the need for such consultation. "Projects relating to pipelines and roads in border areas have been completely exempted from public consultation. Border areas have been defined as 'areas falling within 100 kilometers of arial distance from the line of actual control with bordering countries' which exempts almost all projects in North East India from the public consultation process," the party said.
The move to exempt 40 types of projects from the need for environmental impact assessment has also been criticised. The sectors thus exempted include sand and clay extraction, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting, solar thermal power projects etc. The party also said that the government has excluded environmental clearance requirement for strategic projects without defining what is "strategic". Long periods of validity of projects will allow land grab without accountability or transparency, the party said.
The Congress also opposed the move to unilaterally appoint state environment impact assessment authorities, thereby making state governments a mute spectator without any powers to intervene.