House panel meeting called on draft EIA

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar and his predecessor Jairam Ramesh’s tussle over the Centre’s draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 is set to enter the next phase, with Ramesh deciding to discuss the draft policy in the environment panel of the Parliament.

Ramesh’s decision to call a House panel meeting on the subject was prompted by Javadekar’s letter to him that mentioned “government decisions are always open for scrutiny by Parliament and standing committees.”

Even as recommendations of House panels are not binding upon the government, any critical report of the EIA 2020 can be construed as institutional disapproval and remain as a reference for the future debate or policymaking. A panel can also seek action-taken reports from the ministry on its recommendations.

Ramesh, the chairman of the standing committee on environment, science and technology, has invited ministry officials on August 7. A notice for the meeting has been circulated and it mentions that soft copies of relevant documents would be distributed and no physical copies would be provided due to Covid restrictions.

The former union minister recently wrote to Javadekar to record his “strongest objections” to the draft on grounds that “it allows for post-facto approvals which go against the very principle of assessment; it reduces public participation in all steps of environment clearance process; it does away with environment impact assessment altogether in many cases of expansion; increases validity of environmental clearances allowing projects to secure land for longer durations and it gives union government full powers to appoint state environment impact assessment authorities.”

Javadekar replied that the Congress leader’s concerns were “unfounded” and based on “misrepresentation”.

The minister also wrote to Ramesh on July 26, saying, “I will reply you in detail. Government will finalise after considering various suggestions.”

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