Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh Monday hit back at Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar for calling his suggestions on the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification "unfounded" and based on "misinterpretation".
Ramesh, a former environment minister himself, had written a letter to Javadekar on July 25, saying that the draft EIA notification promotes land grab, attacks cooperative federalism and reduces public participation in environment clearance exercise.
"You say my suggestions (surely you mean my concerns!) are unfounded. All I can say is that these concerns are
founded very much on what is there in black and white in the Draft EIA 2020 notification," he said in his letter to Javadekar.
Javadekar had on Sunday termed his suggestions "unfounded" and based on "misinterpretation", a day after Ramesh had raised strong objections to the draft EIA notification.
"In your response, you accuse me of misrepresenting the provisions of Draft EIA 2020 Notification. As you can see from my detailed response, these concerns are founded on what's there in BLACK AND WHITE in the Draft Notification," he also said on Twitter.
Ramesh, the chairman of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment Forests and Climate Change, said in his letter that 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".
In his July 25 letter, Ramesh had 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 propose in the draft EIA notification 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.
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.