NEW DELHI : Union environment ministry received around 1.7 million letters and emails with suggestions, comments, and objections to the controversial draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, till the Tuesday deadline for feedback, officials aware of the matter said. The EIA division of the ministry will study the issues raised and come out with a final notification, they added on condition of anonymity.
The draft was released on March 23 as part of the process to overhaul environmental regulations for infrastructure projects. Environmental groups have opposed it citing its contentious clauses including one that allows regularisation of projects set up in violation of EIA Notification, 2006, by starting construction before receiving environmental clearance . The draft also proposes a shortening of the time for public hearings, which offer people affected by projects the opportunity to understand and approve them.
People were provided 60 days on March 23 to send their comments to the draft. The ministry later extended the deadline from May 22 to June 30 because of the lockdown imposed to check the spread of Covid-19 . The Delhi high court on June 30 extended the deadline further until August 11 (Tuesday), saying the ministry did not address the court’s query regarding “ambiguity” in its decision in May to extend the deadline. It said the first order inviting suggestions and objections to the draft was issued on March 23 and uploaded on the ministry’s website on April 11. The court added it was hence erroneous on the Centre’s part to issue another notification on May 8 amid the Covid-19 pandemic to extend the deadline till June 30 even when the statutory 60 days had not lapsed.
Vikrant Tongad, an environment conservationist, moved the court saying the deadline be extended either till September 30 or until the restrictions remained in place in view of the pandemic.
Environment secretary R P Gupta on Tuesday said it will take the ministry some time to consider the issues raised in the comments and suggestions. “Letters have gone to the [Union environment] minister [Prakash Javadekar], many have come to me and to other officials. Many are repetitive.”
The ministry has also held meetings with several consultants, industry bodies, and companies whose comments are also being considered separately.