The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 dated March 23, 2020 (“Draft EIA Notification“) earlier this year, on April 11, 2020. The Draft EIA Notification is intended to replace the previous notification implemented since September 14, 2006.
An environmental impact assessment (“EIA“) study or report is intended to identify, assess and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impact of a proposed project or developmental activity (such as a mine, dam, industrial unit etc.). The EIA is used to predict the environmental impacts of a project in the pre-planning stage itself so that decisions can be taken to minimise any adverse impacts on the environment and is considered a critical aspect of sustainable development.
The Draft EIA Notification is intended to promote transparency and streamline compliance, as it integrates numerous notification, amendments, office orders, circulars, court and tribunal directions since the last EIA notification in 2006, which is currently in force.
What next: Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain amendments have already been made to the 2006 notification. The primary concern regarding the Draft EIA Notification has been the dilution of thresholds for assessment of environmental impact and whittling down of clearancerelated checks and balances to ensure that environmentally sensitive projects are properly assessed – post-facto clearance being the most contentious. However, the Draft EIA Notification has not been implemented yet, and further to intervention by courts, time to provide suggestions/objections was allowed until August 11, 2020. The High Court of Karnataka has also restrained the central government from publishing the final notification. Under India's international law obligations as well, any such environment protection rules are required to meet the requirements of the precautionary principle to avoid harm – the proposed Draft EIA Notification may not sufficiently address these concerns unless amended.
1 'Public consultation' means the process by which the concerns of the local affected persons and others, who have plausible stake in environment impact of the project, are ascertained with a view to appropriately take into account all such material concerns while designing the project.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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