A Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification – 2006
- Cautionary Signals - R. Rajamani, The Book Review, Volume XXXII Number, 8 August 2008 (download PDF - 146 KB)
- From red tape to green! - Jayalaksmi K, Deccan Herald, July 15, 2007
- Review of Green Tapism at South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) (PDF document)
- Public kept out of Green norms - Kalyan Ray, Deccan Herald, 25 June 2007
- Eco report pro-industry: Panel - Deccan Herald, 05 June 2007
- Implementation of environmental Regulations hopeless - The Indian Express, June 5 2007
- Clarity on environmental issues sought - The Hindu, 05 June 2007
- A telling commentary on 'Green Tapism' - The Hindu, June 1, 2007
- Newsletter of Sierra Club International Committee - September 2007
From red tape to green!
by Jayalaksmi K
This book shows how the Ministry for Environment and Forests is favouring industrial growth over environmental concerns!
Perhaps it can be said that the EIA Notification (Environment Impact Assessment) is one of the best examples of the blatant disregard the government and its bureaucrats have towards public opinion, as also to anything that comes in the way of 'economic growth'. That could have been pardoned but for the fact that this notification was issued by none other than the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)! The ministry that is expected to safeguard the interests of the environment believes the notification is a 'subordinate legislation' and did not even think it necessary to be discussed before Parliament!
Considering that it deals with finding a mechanism to incorporate environmental safeguards by involving public opinion and identification of impact potential of development projects, the fact that public opinion and local government involvement was not sought, but instead all regard given to the concerns of industry as evidenced by the number of meeting and points raised on behalf of them, it becomes clear who the ministry is a spokesperson for!
Initiated by the MoEF under a World Bank project, with the recommendations of the Govindarajan committee on investment approvals in mind, the Notification looks like an industry agenda. Deemed clearances for pre-construction activities, land acquisition before environmental assessment and extension of environmental clearances to mining and dam projects make the MoEF motives highly suspect. Many of the high impact industries initially placed under the ambit of the Notification have since been exempted, especially the automobile and construction sector. Regulation of SEZs, construction sector have also been weakened.
Industry on top
Rightly as the Environment Support Group notes, at a time when the country is set to accelerate its growth, the EIA would have been the right tool to keep a balance between ecological security and development. But it looks like the investment priorities have overridden all other priorities. It is in this context that ESG has brought out its review of the notification in a book titled Green Tapism.
In a cautionary approach the book begins with some shocking news on proposed bills like the Environment Clearance Bill (a self-certification bill for industries!!) and the National Commission for Exploitation of Natural Resources Bill, both of which subordinate environmental protection to the greater cause of the 8 per cent growth! It examines in detail why the Notification is a worser modification of its earlier form.
On the presumed decentralisation which ESG contests that it is not, the excessive centralisation of decision making, the loopholes that make expert site visits dubious, lack of screening safeguards, ambiguous language in defining pre-feasibility report, no public participation in scoping, the various problems in enforcing environment clearances, have all been dealt with convincingly and with case studies. The annexures also come in very useful.
The team at ESG has to be commended for bringing to light the irregularities in the present Notification and making a case for why it must be repealed.
Green Tapism, a review of the environmental impact assessment notification
Leo f saldanha, abhayraj naik, arpita joshi, subramanya sastry
pp 185, 2007
Many who took part in the panel discussion held to review the publication of "Green tapism: a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006" felt there was a need for a law that could annul clearance if after starting, the project was found to be damaging to environment.
The EIA Notification 2006 is best repealed rather than kept alive. Instead of fulfilling its purpose of minimising adverse impacts of development/industrial projects, all it does is to protect the interests of industrial lobby while keeping the public out of its purview. That was the message from a panel discussion held to review the publication of ‘Green tapism: a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006’, prepared by City-based Environment Support Group.
“For one, the language is tough to understand in most places lending itself to various interpretations. It will sure lead to mass litigations on the issue,” said Leo Saldanha, ESG. But, A B Harapanahalli, director, regional office of MoEF, said the latest notification has only aided more public hearings. “Is there nothing positive at all about the Notification as Leo says? Can it be so? If one needs development, there is need for some sacrifice,” he said.
Nagesh Hegde, professor, Indian Institute of Journalism and Media, countered, “Are the ones who reap the benefit the ones who sacrifice? No, it is the poor who have to sacrifice.” Is development and growth to be measured only in terms of creating wealth, asked Dr Ravi Chellam, director, Atree. R C Purohit, president, FKCCI took objection to the language of the publication where it spoke of “vested interests of industrial lobbies”. “There is no such thing. Our only objection was the time for clearance,” he said.
The publication was released by Dr B K Chandrashekar, Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Council, who felt even after decades since the Silent Valley project was turned down, there has not been much clarity on the subject of development vs environment. He agreed it was worrying the notification had not been placed before Parliament and suggested it be discussed in State legislatures.
Many felt there was a need for a law that could annul clearance if after starting, the project was found to be damaging to environment. Dr H C Sharatchandra, chairman, KSPCB felt the EIA was more a bureaucratic tool rather than one that helped in decision making. Dr Vinod Vyasulu, economist and director, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies chaired the discussion. The publication gives a detailed view of failures and loopholes of the environmental clearance process.
BANGALORE: The controversial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests was the subject of panel discussion in the city on Monday.
The discussion followed a book release of ‘Green Tapism’, a review of the EIA notification jointly-written by Leo F Saldanha, Abhayaraj Naik, Arpitha Joshi and Subramanya Sastry.
Elaborating on the book, Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group said, the legislation prioritised the needs of the industry and investment over environmental and social concerns. The process had also become so complicated that it was impossible to issue clarifications on the notification. The Ministry has stopped the operation of the notification till June 30, he added.
Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council, Dr B K Chandrashekar, who released the book, agreed that the legislation was indeed tilted towards investment needs. He also said that even after the clearance was issued, the monitoring and implementation of environmental regulations was hopelessly inadequate. He also suggested the discussion of regulations at the state legislature.
Outlining problems with the EIA, Chairman of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, H C Sharatchandra said that the assessment is usually a one-man show. There should be a certified body of professionals conducting the assessment.
Multiplicity of agencies at the state and centre also lead to problems as lack of guidelines towards coordination between the departments lead to delay and confusion.
Representing the industry, President, Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry R C Purohit took strong objection to industries and investment lobbies being blamed for the dilution of EIA. He said that their request had more to do with cutting down on the time taken to issue a clearance or rejection certificate and simplifying rules as the procedures were cumbersome and involved duplication of work.
Bangalore: The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006 and the process of clearance for various projects that are assessed under the notification should be discussed in the State legislatures, B.K. Chandrashekhar, Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council suggested here on Monday.
Speaking after releasing the publication "Green Tapism: a Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification-2006" brought out by Environment Support Group here, Prof. Chandrashekhar said clarity on issues such as environmental impact is not forthcoming from the Government and whenever such a notification or legislation is introduced the bias is always towards facilitation of industry and investment.
"Even after clearance has been given to projects, the monitoring of the projects has been hopelessly inadequate. The problem lies in the implementation of the legislation," he added.
On September 19 Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao, both from the non-governmental Environment Support Group (ESG), joined by Subramanya Sastry, a co- author with Leo of *Green Tapism, a Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006 in India*,*visited with volunteers and staff at the Sierra Club in San Francisco. [They are left to right in the photo.] The co-function of ESG is to "build campaigns in support of local communities to advance their environmental and social justice concerns. ESG has been a core organizer for the Campaign for Environmental Justice - India "to improve access to information, participation and justice in decision making."
Mr Saldanha discussed the purpose of Green Tapism given the great concern in India that the EIA Notification process had been manipulated by vested interests eager to place economic gain over ecological and livelihood security. What had been proclaimed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) to be a transparent, decentralized and more efficient regulatory mechanism, has instead turned out "to promote new layers of bureaucracy, leading to weaker review of environmental and social impacts, reduced involvement of local governance bodies" and a preference for investment over environmental and social concerns.
The visitors shared other issue of concern facing them in India such as a proposed coal facility, expansion of a polluting paper mill, extraction of India's natural resources to feed China's development, and expansive growth of urban areas in India that ignore measures to limit the output of carbon to the atmosphere. These are "all exacerbated by the EIA Notification-2006 which promotes lax regulatory standards, and is clearly out of step with growing global concerns on the need to strongly regulate the impact of industrialization and infrastructure development on our climate."
The Sierra Club looks forward to a continued relationship with ESG as it continues its networking of the last five years to raise greater awareness of the ecosystems of India's Western Ghats and more recently as it looks to share and network in India regarding protection of the global commons from increasing human demands for energy with its related impacts.
ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.