Opposition MPs resist attempts to stall discussion on EIA draft

BJP members of the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology tried to stall deliberations on government’s draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020, notification, arguing that it is still on the drawing board and doesn’t come under parliamentary purview.

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According to sources, of the 14 members present, eight BJP MPs opposed any discussion. The opposition members, however, stood their ground and Committee Chairman Jairam Ramesh allowed everyone to express their opinion on the issue. At the end, the deliberations were carried on with the Environment Ministry making a presentation of Draft EIA, 2020.

The choice of the EIA draft for discussion was prompted by Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar’s comment that the government decisions are always open to “scrutiny by Parliament and standing committees”.

The Minister’s remarks came in response to Mr. Ramesh’s letter to him on July 25, saying the proposed changes in EIA display a mindset that “environmental regulations are [an] unnecessary regulatory burden”.

August 11 is the last date to submit objections and suggestions on the draft.

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Lok Sabha MP Shakshi Maharaj and Rajya Sabha MP Ashwini Vaishnaw led the charge on behalf of the BJP. The lawmakers said deliberating on an executive policy, which is at a conceptual stage, would not be right and does not fall under purview of the parliamentary standing committee.

Their argument was countered by AIMIM MP Asaddudin Owaisi, who, according to the sources, said that the EIA 2020 is a subordinate legislation, which means that it doesn’t really need to be cleared by the Parliament. “Whenever it is tabled, the members can raise objections but cannot vote on it. A discussion in the Parliamentary Committee before the draft is finalised is more productive since all the objections raised by them become a part of the record,” Mr. Owaisi is reported to have said.

The BJP members finally relented and agreed that environmental issues are critical. Opposition members — AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi, NCP’s Vandana Chavan, DMK’s R.S. Bharathi and SP’s Ravi Prakash Verma — then raised objections to the draft notification.

During the discussions, Mr. Owaisi pointed out that the EIA 2020 should ensure that India doesn’t see a repeat of the Beirut incident. The Lebanese government has claimed that 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port for the last six years was the cause of the explosion that killed over 150 people and injured nearly 4000 others.

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He also said the EIA 2020 has provisions to “pay and pollute”, giving an easy way out to chemical plants like LG Polymers, where a gas leak cause death of 11 persons in May this year. He pointed out that nearly 98% of projects applying for environmental clearances in the last six years have got clearance. And not a single violator has been awarded a jail sentence or even fined the maximum penalty of ₹1 lakh.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 9:52:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/opposition-mps-resist-attempts-to-stall-discussion-on-eia-draft/article32297275.ece

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