Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.
EIA systematically examines both beneficial and adverse consequences of the project and ensures that these effects are taken into account during project design. It helps to identify possible environmental effects of the proposed project, proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects and predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented.
Issues with the provisions of draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020
- It proposes to reduce the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days, and reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
- This can particularly pose a problem to those affected people who are forest dwellers or otherwise do not have access to information and technology and those that are not aware of the process itself. Unless a public hearing is meaningful, the whole EIA process would lack transparency and credibility.
Wide discretionary powers to government
- It also allows the central government to declare some areas as “economically sensitive areas” without a public hearing or environmental clearance, and several “red” and “orange”-classified toxic industries could now operate as close as 0-5 km from a Protected Area.
- The government also gets to decide on the “strategic” tag for any projects for which no information on such projects shall be placed in the public domain. This opens a window for summary clearance for any project deemed strategic without having to explain why.