A day after senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh raised strong objections to the draft EIA notification, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday termed his suggestions as "unfounded" and based on "misinterpretation".
Javadekar's response came after Ramesh, former environment minister and present chairman of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment Forests and Climate Change, wrote to him raising concerns about the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification.
In his letter, the Congress leader said the draft EIA reduces public participation in all the steps of the environment clearance process "by lessening the notice period for public hearings and doing away with them for a large category of projects". Responding to Ramesh through a letter, Javadekar said, "I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated July 25, which was simultaneously released to the press."
"Draft notification is kept in public domain for comments and suggestions. Your observations are noted. There are 15 more days for suggestions. All your suggestions are unfounded and based on misinterpretation. I will reply you in detail," the Union minister said. Javadekar said the government will finalise the draft after considering various suggestions and that the "government decisions are always open for scrutiny by Parliament and standing committees".
The draft EIA notification was issued by the Environment Ministry in March this year and public suggestions were invited. Earlier, the ministry had said it won't extend the deadline beyond June 30. The deadline is now August 12.
In his letter on July 25, Ramesh said the draft EIA allows post-facto approvals that go against the very principle of assessment and public participation prior to environment clearance and has provisions that will routinely legitimise illegality. "It does away with environment impact assessment altogether in very many cases of expansion. It increases validity of environment clearances allowing projects to secure land for long durations even when they are not constructed this promotes land grab, not development.
"It gives the union government full powers to appoint state environment impact assessment authorities. This is yet another nail on the coffin of cooperative federalism. These changes are not based on the three as audits, assessments and analysis," the Congress leader said in the letter. He pointed out that the changes are not based on any research.
"They reflect a mindset that sees environmental regulation as an unnecessary regulatory burden and not as an essential obligation to be met for the health and welfare of our people and for ensuring development that is sustainable," he said.