As many as 500 academicians, scientists and researchers from various educational institutes across the country have urged the environment ministry to withdraw the controversial draft EIA notification and strengthen the existing EIA 2006 notification with a new proposal. Ever since the notification was issued in March, the ministry has received suggestions through nearly 17 lakh e-mails, including several objections.
In yet another letter, the signatories from 130 institutions have listed their concerns regarding the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, which has been surrounded by controversy since its release, and asked the ministry to withdraw it as it could adversely affect the environment and dilute the clearance process. The institutes and universities that have written to the ministry include the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
The controversial notification has drawn severe criticism and protests from students, citizens, activists, environmentalists across the country for "fundamentally dismantling environmental safeguards to promote ease of doing business". "This cross-institutional collaboration, initiated by PhD students from different institutes, was supported by 105 faculties, former faculties and senior scientists, along with over 400 PhD scholars, post-doctoral research fellows, independent researchers and other research students, who have all signed the letter in their personal capacities," a press note released by the signatories said.
The letter says the legitimisation of ex-post facto environmental clearances is a significant dilution of the EIA process. It also expresses concern on the reclassification of many highly-polluting industries and projects to exempt those from proper environmental appraisals altogether.
It calls for an improved and more inclusive public consultation processes in environmental decision-making and effective post-clearance monitoring mechanisms. "While a lot of noise is made about iconic species like tigers, turtles and elephants and there is outrage even about individual animals, the truth is that poorly planned large-scale development projects have the greatest negative impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems and people.
"This notification leaves the door open to projects that may severely impact the environment and yet have little real benefit for the people in need," Kartik Shanker, associate professor at the IISc, Bengaluru, who is one of the signatories to the letter, said. Ayaz Ahmed, a PhD scholar from IIT-Bombay, said, "The EIA process is supposed to regulate the polluting industries and other development projects and mitigate their impact on the environment. But instead, the draft proposes to ease the environmental safeguards. We need stronger environmental regulations." The draft EIA notification was issued by the ministry on March 23 with public opinions and suggestions invited till August 11.