No public consultation required for project expansion as government seeks to ease environmental standard – The New Indian Express
Express press service
NEW DELHI: As the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 presented by the Modi government has been challenged in court, the Union Environment Ministry has decided to relaxing environmental standards by pushing for changes through office memoranda under the guise of streamlining procedures.
The latest example is the public hearing exemption granted to expansion projects up to 40% of their capacity. It was previously mandatory for all projects seeking to expand beyond 5% of their existing capacity.
Public hearing will also not be required for expansion of mining concession area, expansion due to modernization, improvement of port/port handling capacity, widening of roads and improvement of the built-up area of the projects.
In a memo released April 11, the ministry said it was working to streamline the process for projects seeking prior environmental clearance. Citing precedents, the ministry said the public hearing requirement had been removed in the expansion of coal mines to 40% capacity in 2017 and the expansion of other mines – iron, manganese, bauxite and limestone – up to 20% in 2021.
However, environmental activists and researchers criticized the decision. “India’s draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, currently under consideration by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, has been widely criticized and even challenged. in court. One of the most controversial changes proposed is the circumvention of public consultations for project extensions of up to 50% of their original capacity,” said a recent paper by a group of independent researchers.
The paper titled ‘The Road Ahead for Environmental Impact Assessment in India: Insights from Expansion in Coal Mining’ said a similar public hearing exemption, albeit for a 40% capacity expansion, was allowed as a special case. for the coal mining sector in 2017. The authors analyzed the minutes of the meetings of the Coal Mining Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) which reviewed these coal mining expansion applications.
He found that the EAC had brushed off environmental and non-compliance concerns and relied on procedural issues to screen requests for such exemptions.
As for the opening of the Indian markets
The public hearing is a forum to inform the community that could be affected by a project, of the result of the environmental impact assessment of the proposed project, to check the conclusions against the reality on the ground and to confirm that the parties stakeholders have been adequately consulted