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‘NE to suffer more if environmental regulation is weakened’

‘NE to suffer more if environmental regulation is weakened’

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS):Pradyut Boroloi, Lok Sabha member from Assam, demanded that the new ranking framework which incentivises state authorities for clearing projects without environmental compliance be rescinded. He also warned the Environment Minister that the northeast would suffer more if environmental regulation is weakened.

Bordoloi voiced concern over the recent move to “incentivise” State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, (SEIAA), by a ranking that is based on efficiency and speed with which environmental clearance are granted, through a letter addressed to Bhupender Yadav, Union Ministry for Environment and Forest.

“State authorities would be ranked higher according to the parameters given, for granting clearances in a shorter period of time, seeking fewer details and conducting fewer sight-visits. This will result in projects being cleared without due diligence in a country like India, which is suffering from worsening air and waters quality, an eight year-low in forest coverage growth as per the government’s record, and a decline if forest cover as suggested through independent reports.” he said.

Bordoloi wrote in response to the January 18 Office Memo by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). This memo offered incentives to states to rate their respective Environment Impact Assessments authorities (EIA) based on how quickly they grant clearance to projects.

According to the India State of Forest Report 2021, this “fast-track” approach to environmental clearances will have catastrophic effects, especially in the North-East Region. This region is already suffering from an intensified loss of forest cover and trees, according to ISFR2021. India is home to some the most rich biodiversity in the world. However, the NE states are the ones reporting the greatest reductions in forest cover. The Congress leader stated that weakening environmental regulation in this area will have adverse effects not only on biodiversity but also on many communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the environment.”

While it is important to balance economic, social and environmental interests, SEIAAs have a mandate to protect the environment. Bordoloi stated that this ranking framework will undermine their mandate. He added, “Our efforts should instead be directed towards strengthening the mandates of SEIAAs so they can function independently of business interest and focus only on protecting the environment.”

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The MP from Assam’s Nagaon appealed for higher quality appraisals and greater transparency. He stated that “This ranking framework SEIAAs is a violation of the Environment (Protect) Act 1987 as well as the Constitutional obligation to protect the environment.”

The government has already clarified the EIA Notification provides time-lines for all EC processes. There is no negative marking for not meeting the criteria for ranking.

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