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2020 updates to Environmental Impact Assessment Process are a potential nightmare for India


Act Now to Protect the Environment

August 11 deadline extended by Karnataka High Court :

There have been various amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment process over the years, but the 2020 version has some dangerous loopholes that must be plugged. Please therefore read the article that follows on the EIA. Then if you care about the future of this great nation, please write an email or letter in your own words to the Environmental Minister Prakash Javedar at or at 

Came into force as a response to the Bhopal tragedy: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process was first adopted by the Environment Ministry  after the Bhopal gas leak tragedy in 1984 that killed at least 3,787 victims and injured 574,366 victims*.

 EIA  is a part of the Environmental Protection Act of India which came into force in 1986 . 

Business (which these days controls government) sees Environmental Protection as an expense to be avoided: The famous Economist, EF Schumacher, author of "Small is Beautiful" points out that business has a dangerous tendency to view environmental inputs to a business as mere expenses. He points out that they should be seen as a capital cost by governments and business because environmental resources are often irreplaceable. Profligate use of environmental resources also creates enormous problems for future generations.

Several people have made strong cases against the EIA. Much of this material was culled by my colleague Sreya Lal from a video on Instagram posted by Jacqueline Jackson. 

Jacqueline makes the following (paraphrased) points about the EIA (2020 revisions): 

Negative Impact on Future Generations:  The main reason I am talking about is that this EIA revision has a direct impact on future generations . EIA 2020 provisions make it easier for corporates to extract resources from our future and ride roughshod over the rights of individuals.

We belong to the future, so we need to fight against this revision .

The EIA has already been amended 12 times but this time there are in my view issues that need to be addressed. 

  1. Violates People's Rights: The first drawback is that it violates certain fundamental rights of people by  excluding scheduled tribes ,  scheduled castes and indigenous peoples . The draft does not appear to offer protection to these groups .  

  1. Centralisation of Power: If you look at the 2006 EIA , it had provisions where the state also had some role in controlling  industries . The 2020 EIA draft doesn't  allow any state participation. 

For example, I  belong to a state called Kerala and ABC is a mining project that is going to be established next to my village and I am a party who would  be directly impacted by their project . I would no longer have the right to approach my state for redressal.  Instead I would have to approach the centre directly .  

  1. Providing Post - Facto Clearance For Harmful Industries: Imagine there is a company which has not obtained the clearance certificate from the Government. Under the proposed 2020 provisions, they still have time to obtain the certificate from the Government. This is a very bad rule under EIA .  Because companies like SG Polymers (responsible for the Visakhapatnam Gas Leakage that killed people could be absolved. 

  2. Lack of Accountability by labelling projects as "Strategic" 

The  new draft brings many scientific projects under the head of strategic projects . A strategic project is something that is directly related to national security . For example, if the Government needs to construct a warehouse that is used for storing defence weapons, those particular details would need to be shielded from the public . This would clearly be for National security . But now according to the new draft, EIA  is going to bring so many other projects into this category of Strategic Projects such as development of coastal areas , hydrothermal projects, building of National Highways , etc . 

  1. Timespan of project review liberalised (once  a year only), NOC, Clearance etc are not subject to twice yearly review. This means that a corporate could go and do something inappropriate and it would be reviewed for as much as a year.

  1. Project Size: Another important change  is that the Government does not propose to require a clearance certificate from projects that require close to 40 hectares of forests or 40 hectares of water body without obtaining a clearance certificate.

  1. Road width is no longer an obstacle to unauthorized development. 

 According to the new 2020 draft any road with a width of 70 metres or more is only required to obtain a clearance certificate from the Government . This means that any project , any National Highways or State Highways that are under 70 metres width, do not necessarily have to go through any reviews. Even if issues that have been raised by people.  it will not go through any inspection during the time of its construction . However when we checked the web site of of the Ministry of Highways last, we found that none of the roads of India's history had ever crossed 60 metres of width. 

This EIA process is still just a draft. It has not become a fully-fledged law as it has not passed in parliament . The time to comment was till August 11, 2020, but that deadline has been extended to ensure that information about the proposed changes are posted widely in vernacular languages. Many are convinced that this particular draft should never be allowed to become law. Please share widely and please write to the Environment Minister Prakash Javedar at or at 

The EIA overall is still a process which protects the environment. We need this process so that any projects that come will be evaluated properly based on the current guidelines of EIA . We do need the EIA process but must ensure that essential provisions are still protect the interests of the people, especially downtrodden and marginalized communities. 

Please make sure that you use your own words when writing about any reservations you may have about the EIA 2020 draft. If you just send in comments from an NGO web site, your email could get automatically deleted.

*These numbers reflect the people who were compensated. Many more were impacted.

Another article on this vital issue from

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