HP NEWS SERVICE
Shillong, Jun 30: Tribal land activists and environmentalists here and in the north east region as a whole, are yet to react to the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification.
In the rest of the country, however, the draft notification has been raising a storm of protest among stakeholders as it is seen to be done with an eye to “promote interests of business lobby and the corporates over that of human rights, environment and biodiversity,” to quote one of the statements in protest.
The draft EIA 2020 seeks to loosen up many of the requirements for ensuring that the environmental degradation by any activities of ‘development’ such as setting up industries, road-making, mining, etc is kept to the minimum as per the EIA 2006.
The stricter regime of getting environment clearance under 2006 is widened, thus making it easier for big corporate bodies to continue to do their extractive business without worrying about complying with these requirements to protect the environment, forests, rivers and the biodiversity as well as the people who reside in these areas.
While the draft EIA 2020 seeks to make these drastic changes to these laws which are likely to have more impact on the Sixth Schedule areas, it is learnt that the Autonomous District Councils of the Garo, Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills are not at all aware of what’s going on and have not yet sat down to discuss how these might impact their authority over the forests and land, which as many pointed out is already dwindling. The three district councils control 95 per cent of the land and forests in the State.
When this reporter tried to find out from sources in these tribal councils as to what their stand was vis-à-vis the draft EIA 2020, the reply received was that they were not aware of such a draft. One of them told Highland Post that the State Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department had not consulted them at all about this draft which they should have, he said.
It is to be noted that many of these clauses are likely to have even more drastic impact on Autonomous Council jurisdictions as they claim to be the authorities over the land and forests.
For example, so far, the uranium mining project has been stalled as the EIA 2006, with all its flaws, still ensures that projects such as these have to muster through the public domain of environmental hearings and stakeholders consultations.
But if the new draft becomes a law, it might be declared strategic and pulled behind the curtain outside the public domain, was a concern shared by some people spoken to.
Already, Meghalaya has seen massive forest and environmental destruction in the wake of unregulated coal mining, limestone mining, dozens of cement factories and many new projects coming up in fragile and rich hill ecosystems.
The draft EIA envisages that many projects which would have earlier required environmental clearance would not require undergoing the stringent tests. Moreover, the draft EIA allows post-facto approval, giving project proponents the chance to start off without environmental clearance to get it later on.
Today was the last day for sending in comments or objections to the draft. But it is learnt that a plea submitted by activists in the Delhi High Court has asked the Government of India to extend the day till the end of August this year.
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