Environment impact assessments should be based on realistic field conditions: Gadgil

Major focus of development policy should be on discouraging unfair economic gains, promotion of more inclusive democratic decision-making, and broadening societal knowledge, said Madhav Gadgil, who led the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel.

He was addressing the staff and research scholars of Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) on ‘Environmental Impact Assessments’ (EIA) on Thursday.

Mr. Gadgil exhorted those involved in EIA projects to go by realistic field conditions and not by the census figures and geographical data.

Lot of EIAs had been done since 1977 on various projects, but nothing had been done on how to improve them. Till the inception of Right to Information Act, the EIAs were kept as a secret against all tenets of good scientific practice. RTI brought them to the public domain, which helped in challenging the factually wrong assessments against projects.

False data

EIA notification of 1994 had no guidelines but it also cautioned against no false information, false data, unfair reports, concealing of facts and making of false recommendations, he underlined.

Mr. Gadgil also pointed out that EIAs will have to be viewed positively but they should be for environment friendly projects and not for narrow interests.

EIAs are not a nuisance or a tool to stop projects but they are a tool for an environmentally sound sustainable development.

Mr. Gadgil called for strict enforcement of laws to combat air and water pollution, facilitate assembly of people drawing attention to environmental degradation besides calling for constitution of Bio-diversity Management Committees (BMCs) in all local bodies and have them empowered under the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 to regulate use of local resources.

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