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No public consultation required forexpandingprojects as government seeks to relax environment norm- The New Indian Express
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No public consultation required forexpandingprojects as government seeks to relax environment norm- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: As the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2020 brought by the Modi government has been challenged in court, Union environment ministry has taken to relaxing environment norms by pushing changes through office memorandums on the pretext of streamlining procedures.

The latest example is the exemption from public hearing granted to projects for expansion up to 40 per cent of their capacity. It was earlier mandatory for all projects seeking expansion beyond five per cent of their existing capacity.

Public hearing will also not be required for expansion of mine lease area, expansion due to modernisation, enhancement of cargo handling capacity of ports/harbours, widening of roads and enhancement of built-up area of projects.

In an office memorandum issued on April 11, the ministry said it has been making efforts to streamline the procedure for projects seeking prior environmental clearance. Citing precedents, the ministry said the requirement of public hearing had been done away with in expansion of coal mines up to 40% capacity in 2017 and expansion of other mines — iron, manganese, bauxite and limestone up to 20% in 2021.

However, environmental activists and researcher have criticised the move. The draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2020 in India, currently under consideration by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, has been criticised widely and even challenged in the courts. One of the most contentious changes proposed is the circumvention of public consultations for expansions of projects up to 50 per cent of their original capacity, said a recent paper by a group of independent researchers.

The paper titled The Road Ahead for Environmental Impact Assessment in India: Insights from Expansion in Coal Mining said a similar exemption from public hearing, albeit for 40 per cent capacity expansion, had been permitted as a special case for the coal mining sector in 2017. The authors analysed the minutes of meetings of the Coal Mining Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) that reviewed these requests for coal mines expansion.

It found that the EAC had sidelined environmental and non-compliance related concerns and had relied on procedural issues to filter applications for such exemptions.

As for opening up of Indian markets
Public hearing is a forum to inform the community that could be impacted by a project, of the outcome of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed project, to verify the findings in relation to ground reality, and confirm that stakeholders have been adequately consulted

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