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Letter to the MoEF&CC: Draft EIA 2020

Date: 21.06.2021

Mr. Prakash Javadekar Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan

Jorbagh Road

New Delhi -110003

Subject: Open Letter urging you to consider recommendations of and the gaps in the CSIR NEERI report and to ensure transparency and objectivity in the process of finalisation of the draft EIA Notification 2020

Reference: CSIR-NEERI report on ‘Collation and Review of the comments/suggestions received from all the stakeholders on the draft EIA Notification 2020’

Dear Mr. Javadekar,

We, the undersigned, are individuals and groups working on various issues related to the environment, many closely working with the communities most vulnerable to environmental pollution and disasters, and all who have been following the developments on environmental law, regulation and governance in India including the Draft EIA Notification 2020. We have gone through in detail the CSIR-NEERI report ‘Collation and Review of the comments/suggestions received from all the stakeholders on the draft EIA Notification 2020” (NEERI Report) and write to you to urge you to acknowledge and accept the NEERI report’s conclusion that there are serious problems with the EIA Draft 2020, to follow the recommendations of the report, to address its gaps, and to ensure transparency and objectivity regarding MoEFCC’s next steps with respect to the draft EIA Notification 2020. It is clear from the conclusions of the above-mentioned NEERI Report that there are genuine concerns from the stakeholders regarding the draft EIA Notification 2020. The CSIR-NEERI report has also brought to the fore the need to ‘holistically analyse and brainstorm amongst the peer groups’ the comments received from the stakeholders and other recommendations by expert committees of the MoEF&CC, recommendations by judiciary bodies, CAG etc. to suitably amend, clarify, detail out, and improve the present draft EIA 2020 notification, for the larger goal of enhanced environmental protection. To do justice to these recommendations, and to ensure the “larger goal of enhanced environmental protection”, the following will be critical and we urge you to establish that these are ensured.

  1. ENSURE TRANSPARENCY IN FURTHER STEPS ON DRAFT EIA NOTIFICATION 2020: It is clear that there is active participation of the stakeholders and citizens at large in the process of strengthening the environmental safeguards in the country with the comments on the draft EIA Notification, 2020. While the CSIR-NEERI report is a welcome step in processing the comments on the provisions of the draft EIA Notification 2020, we urge the Ministry to put in the public domain all the steps taken till date on moving further on the EIA Draft 2020, as well the steps it is planning or considering for the future. This should include the manner in which the comments are going to be processed further, overall status of the steps taken and proposed for the draft EIA Notification 2020, revelation of the Committees formed, tenders granted, progress made, the bottlenecks identified as well as to highlight the provisions which need further discussion.

  2. SET UP AN INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE TO PROCESS THE COMMENTS: Given the extent and depths of the comments, and the acknowledgement by the NEERI Report that these comments make many substantive points, there is a need to examine them further in detail by a committee that has rounded environmental knowledge and expertise. This itself means that such a committee would necessarily need to draw expertise from outside the Ministry (MoEFCC). Note that the NEERI Report itself recommends that the comments be examined with “peer groups”. Further, given that a large number of comments present objections to the draft which has been prepared by the Ministry, it is desirable that the comments be examined by a group that is substantially different from the Ministry, is independent and at an arm’s length from the Ministry. Otherwise, we would have a situation where the Ministry would be examining objections to its own draft, which may not allow for an objective assessment. Thus, to maintain objectivity, independence and credibility of incorporating the comments, and to benefit properly from these substantial number of comments, the MoEF&CC should set up an independent committee headed or chaired by an eminent environmentalist to process and analyse the comments. Report by the committee should be made public. The Committee members should include not only experts representing different areas of environment and ecology but also key representatives of people bearing the brunt of the adverse impacts of projects and activities that impact the environment, as well as representatives of civil society who have been active in taking up issues of environmental impacts and their regulation and governance.

  3. ENSURE CONSIDERATION OF THE LOGIC BEHIND THE COMMENTS: The report by CSIR- NEERI has collated the comments which is a daunting task in itself. However, the NEERI Report has only compiled the specific recommendations of most of the comments on the Draft EIA 2020, whereas the reasons, logic and substantial research that formed the basis of the comments and objections to many provisions of the Draft EIA Notification 2020 is missing from this compilation report. Therefore, the Committee set up to examine the comments should go beyond specific comments and objections, and should consider the logic and rationale offered for these, and should provide its reasons including on the rationale while accepting or rejecting any comments.

  4. COMMENTS ON BROADER RESTRUCTURING SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN ADDITION TO THE CLAUSE WISE COMMENTS: We also wish to highlight that the comments collated and mentioned in the CSIR-NEERI report pertain only to the clause-wise provisions of the draft EIA Notification 2020 which means that comments, objections or suggestions regarding the broader overhauling of the EIA process in the country have been missed. It is important that comments on the broader strengthening of the EIA process should also be reviewed, analyzed, discussed and implemented. These include (but are not limited to) comments pertaining to ensuring credibility of the EIA reports, increasing meaningful participation by affected communities, and bringing their participation at a much earlier stage of project assessment, strengthening the capacity, credibility and effectiveness of the expert appraisal committees, bringing in higher level impact assessments including sectoral impact assessment and regional impact assessment. (see link for example). Thus, any consideration of comments should keep this in mind and make sure that comments that go beyond clause-wise discussions are also duly considered.

  5. AMENDMENTS TO EIA NOTIFICATION 2006 SHOULD NOT BE USED TO IMPLEMENT THE PROVISIONS OF THE DRAFT EIA NOTIFICATION: Since the time the Draft EIA 2020 has been put out, MoEF&CC has from time to time been bringing out amendments to the EIA Notification 2006, that are the same or very similar to provisions in the Draft EIA 2020. For example, the amendment to the EIA Notification 2006 dated 18.03.2021 enabling projects to bypass public hearing where construction and commissioning of proposed activities have not been completed within the validity period of the Environmental Clearance (EC), or the amendment related to exemption of projects from prior Environmental Clearance for any increase in production capacity in respect of processing or production or manufacturing sector dated 02.03. 2021. This is nothing but a clear bypassing of the public comments process, and a back door implementation of the provisions of the Draft EIA 2020. This practice must be stopped and provisions of the Draft EIA 2020 made effective only after properly considering and incorporating the public comments and other recommendations of the NEERI Report.

  6. COMMENTS SHOULD BE PLACED IN PUBLIC DOMAIN: We appeal to the MoEF&CC to put in the public domain the received comments, including the 6883 online comments which were with attachment and 1244 comments which were received offline through post to allow for analysis of these comments by the public. This is to ensure transparency in the process. It is also a fact that the CSIR NEERI Report has only collated the clause-wise comments and objections. Consequently, the reason, logic, and research that went into bringing to the fore the specific objections to these provisions and thus their implications have been lost. Disclosure of these comments in the public domain would ensure a wider discussion on these provisions.

We would be happy to engage in further discussions and to provide clarifications.

Contact for further correspondence on behalf of all signatories:


Signed by Groups/ Movements/Alliances (in alphabetical order) :

  1. All Kerala Flood Relief

  2. Ambedkarite Students' Association, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

  3. Chennai Climate Action Group

  4. Chennai Solidarity Group

  5. Chutka Parmanu Vidrohi Sangarsh Samiti, Mandala, M.P.

  6. Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai

  7. Citizens Forum for Mangalore Development

  8. Climate Front India

  9. Dharamitra, Wardha

  10. Focus on the Global South, India

  11. Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India

  12. Fridays For Future India

  13. Goyant Kollso Naka

  14. Green EIA Movement

  15. Growthwatch

  16. Himdhara Environment Collective

  17. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

  18. Indigenous Women India Network ( I WIN)

  19. Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur

  20. Jaladarsha collective

  21. Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike

  22. Knowledge Hope Opportunity & Justice (KHOJ), Melghat

  23. Let India Breathe

  24. Manthan Adhyayan Kendra

  25. Manthan Law

  26. MAUSAM Network (Movement for Advancing Understanding on Sustainability and Mutuality)

  27. Millennials for Environment

  28. Muse Foundation

  29. National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

  30. Poovulagin Nanbargal

  31. Rainbow Warriors

  32. Save Dumna, Jabalpur

  33. Save Mollem, Goa

  34. South Asia People's Action on Climate Crisis India (SAPACC)

  35. There Is No Earth B

  36. Tosamaidan Bachav Front

  37. Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

  38. Youth For Climate India

  39. Youth for Swaraj

  40. Yugma Network

  41. VIBGYOR film Collective, Thrissur

Signed by Individuals (in alphabetical order):

  1. Abhayraj Naik, Azim Premji University

  2. Akhil Chaudhary, Advocate, Human Rights Law Network, Jaipur (Rajasthan)

  3. Dr. Amitha Bachan KH, Western Ghats Hornbill Foundation, Kerala.

  4. Anand Pendharkar, SPROUTS

  5. Anil Varghese, Delhi Forum

  6. Arpitha Kodiveri, European University Institute

  7. Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters

  8. Ashish Kothari, Kalpvriksh, Pune

  9. Bharat Jhunjhunwala

  10. Bijayashree Satpathy, Researcher

  11. Chaittanya Kumar, Climate Justice Advocate

  12. Chihi Umbrey, PhD Scholar, Rajiv Gandhi University

  13. Dhara Patel, Landscape Architect

  14. Disha A Ravi, Environmental and Climate Activist

  15. Harish Vasudevan, Lawyer, High Court of Kerala

  16. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)

  17. Jyoti Gill (Architect, Urban Planner & Academician)

  18. K J Joy, Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India

  19. K Ramnarayan, Ecologist & Educator, Uttarakhand

  20. Kalyani Durga Ravindra from Fridays for Future, Pune

  21. Kasturi Saha, Indian Institute of Science

  22. Kirankumar Vissa, Rythu Swarajya Vedika

  23. Kirtana Kumar

  24. Maithili Madhusudanan, Illustrator and Graphic designer

  25. Mamta Lukram, Environment Activist, Imphal

  26. Meenakshi Kapoor, Researcher, Dharamsala

  27. Mudita Vidrohi, Gujarat Lok Samiti

  28. Nandakumar Pawar, Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, Mumbai

  29. Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha

  30. Neha Sarwate, Environmental Planner

  31. Nousheen Khan, Children Against Dow-Carbide

  32. Nita Mahadev, Gujarat Lok Samiti

  33. Nishchay Mhatre, Lokayat

  34. Nupur, SAPACC

  35. Om Prakash Singh, Chennai

  36. Pradip Chatterjee, National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (NPSSFW)

  37. Pranav Menon, Researcher.

  38. Prof. Sunil K Chaudhary, T.M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur, Bihar

  39. Pujarini Sen, New Delhi

  40. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

  41. Rajani Rao Santosh, Independent citizen researcher & Activist.

  42. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh

  43. Rohit Prajapati, Environmental Activist, Researcher and Writer

  44. Rutvik Tank, Urban Planner

  45. Salam Rajesh, Manipur Nature Society, Imphal

  46. Sandhya Balasubramanian, Bengaluru

  47. Sankar Prasad Pani, Environment Lawyer

  48. Sarang Yadwadkar, Activist, Pune

  49. Satabdi Datta, Researcher, West Bengal

  50. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, J&K RTI Movement

  51. Sharachchandra Lele, Bengaluru

  52. Shishir R. Raval, Landscape Architect, Ecological Planner and Educationist

  53. Shreya Modi (Architect and Urban Planner)

  54. Shruti Ajit - Researcher - Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group

  55. Shweta Damle, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association

  56. Siddharth Agarwal, Veditum India Foundation

  57. Stella James, Independent legal researcher

  58. Surabhi Singh, Researcher, Bangalore

  59. Sushmita, Researcher - Journalist, Mumbai

  60. T. Ivan Zhimo, Nagaland

  61. Vandana Viswanath, Writer/Editor, Chennai

  62. V Arun and Akila Balu, Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), Chennai

  63. Vasavi Kiro, activist, Jharkhand

  64. Vijayan MJ, Senior Advisor, Centre for Financial Accountability

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