The Environment Impact Assessment Draft 2020 introduced earlier in the year has raised many concerns regarding the potential adverse impacts of the proposed amendments on the procedural framework for environment impact assessment and clearances. Besides environmental activists and organisations concerns have also been raised by wider sections of the population through online campaigns, social media posts and email forwards. The issue has much deservedly taken an important place in the public discourse. Yet there is a lot to add about the complex framework of environment protection and impact assessment sought to be modified through this draft to this discourse to make public understanding more comprehensive.
In the Opinion Tandoor Conversations Series Sumit Chaturvedi speaks with Parul Gupta, an environmental lawyer practising in the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal for the past decade. In this conversation Parul addresses not only the EIA draft 2020 and the amendments proposed in it but also the broader environment protection framework as it is established in law and policy as well as its implementation on the ground.
The conversation begins with a brief background on the environment protection framework with regards to its origins in India, its evolution and how it was materialised through Environment Protection Act 1986 and the subsequent notifications and amendments. It addresses the specific provisions in the EIA process such as public consultation, categorisation of projects, scoping, violations, punitive measures, clearances, pre and post approval of projects, environment management plan etc. Parul not only explains these provisions in detail but also talks about them vis-à-vis the amendments in the EIA draft 2020 which seek to modify them. She also provides personal observations regarding their implementation on the ground with specific examples from the cases which she has argued for in the courts.
Parul also talks about the larger issues associated with the environment protection framework such as public participation, powers of regulating authorities and impact assessment agencies, notification of eco-sensitive zones, “pollute and pay model” and self-compliance by project proponents to provide a broader picture of the environment protection scenario. In doing so she connects the dots between the basics of the environment protection framework with the current EIA draft and its potential impact.
This conversation is important not only to gain perspective on the EIA draft 2020 but the entire environment protection framework including its past, present and the future and help engage with the ongoing efforts of modifying them as well as those in the offing in the future.
While a lot of discussion on the EIA draft 2020 issue is going on, there is a dearth of the same for Hindi audiences. This conversation which is in both English and Hindi languages tries to bridge that gap.