In a move of solidarity, students of nearly 50 student organizations across colleges and universities including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ashoka University and others from India have written to Union Minister Prakash Javadekar against the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020.
As many as 50 student unions including AISA, JNUSU as well as youth groups and environmental clubs across several colleges are seeking a withdrawal of the draft notification, which seeks to make amendments to the existing EIA notification that came into effect in 1994. As per students, the new amendments may end up posing a serious threat to the environment and society by giving a free rein to several businesses and destructive industries such as mining and construction.
The petition, led by Ashoka's University's Anjali Dalmia, a 20-year-old student and environmentalist from Pune, seeks withdrawal of the new notification.
“We should use the EIA to bring India out of the COVID-19 pandemic as an environmentally aware country through a green recovery. While economic revival is a national priority, this should be done without compromising the environment and society, as in the long run, it is our natural ecosystem which will support us”, Dalmia said.
The petition also contended that ensuring long-term environmental prosperity and peace required constant cooperation and efforts by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Instead of being in cooperation with the citizens and their needs, the EIA notification was further in conflict with both citizens as well as the environment due to the long-term nature of the damage that it may cause.
What is EIA and why are students opposed to it?
The EIA notification provides the framework for India's environmental policy and institutes rules for environmental assessments and clearances. The EIA Notification 2020 seeks to supersede and completely replace the EIA Notifications 2006 along with all several amendments made since then.
As per the students who have written to the MOEFCC, the new draft notification, if implemented, might give too much power to industrialists and corporates to carry out industrial activities at the cost of sustainable environmental goals.
Taanika Shankar and Smruthi Ananth, members of the Sustainability Committee at Azim Premji University UG, claim that the, "In recent months and years, we have observed the effects of a weak environmental policy. Mumbai’s Aarey forest was cleared to build a metro shed despite massive protests. Vizag’s LG Polymers caused a gas leak on 7th May. Assam’s Baghjan gas leak is another recent example. Land was cleared to extend the ports in Goa regardless of protests in 2016,"
"Despite the obvious improvement of rivers and lowered pollution levels during the lockdown period, the MOEFCC is still approving destructive projects", the students added.
The EIA Draft Notification intends to bring in amendments such as post-facto grant of approval and other controversial moved like exemption of several large industries from hearings and easier procedures for clearances and environmental compliances.