Green Minute News

The Karnataka High Court has directed the Central Government to give wide publicity to the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020 notification so that citizens across the country get an opportunity to file their objections before August 11. It has also urged the Centre to consider extending the date of filing public suggestions and objections. On March 23, the Centre had quietly issued EIA, 2020 whose main  focus was “Ease of doing Business” for many industries without any environmental clearances.  

Hearing the PIL filed by United Conservation Movement (UCM), Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna stated, “The Centre was not taking any positive steps for giving wide publicity to EIA, 2020 in all regional languages. During the pandemic, the notification has been restricted to its official website and gazette. The Centre should exercise its powers to give wide publicity to draft EIA, 2020 so that people can get an opportunity to file their objections. However, the time left for filing was very less and therefore, they should consider extending the time for filing.”

The Central Government advocate informed the High Court that they had complied with the requirement of the rules and had received 4 lakh objections. However, the High Court made observations that the EIA, 2020 was not in accordance with public interest and stressed that if the notification was not given publicity, the Court would stay the present notification. However, the Central government advocate pleaded for further time to take instructions from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The PLI filed by UCM, a citizens’ movement for environment related issues was argued by its advocates Prince Isaac and A C Bhavya. They informed the High Court that earlier such notifications were published in vernacular newspapers but the EIA, 2020 failed to do this and was restricted to MoEF website and the gazette. So, the citizens have been deprived of their right to file their objections/suggestions to such an important notification which is a violation of natural justice.

Meanwhile, activists said the Centre had not learned any lessons from the frequent environmental disasters occurring in the country, namely the recent disasters during the pandemic at Vishakapatnam where LG Polymers (a South Korean subsidiary) had no environmental clearances under EIA, 2006 or the massive boiler explosions at Neyveli Thermal Power Station which were operating old and worn out units without a safety audit.

 The matter has been posted for next hearing to July 23.