News: The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday restrained the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) from publishing the final notification based on the draft notification of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)-2020 till the next date of hearing on a PIL petition.
About the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA):
A signatory to the Stockholm Declaration (1972) on Environment, India enacted laws to control water (1974) and air (1981) pollution soon after. But it was only after the Bhopal gas leak disaster in 1984 that the country legislated an umbrella Act for environmental protection in 1986.
Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, India notified its first EIA norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources. Every development project has been required to go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance ever since.
The 1994 EIA notification was replaced with a modified draft in 2006. Earlier this year, the government redrafted it again to incorporate the amendments and relevant court orders issued since 2006, and to make the EIA “process more transparent and expedient.”
The 2020 draft offers no remedy for the political and bureaucratic stronghold on the EIA process, and thereby on industries. Instead, it proposes to bolster the government’s discretionary power while limiting public engagement in safeguarding the environment.
While projects concerning national defence and security are naturally considered strategic, the government gets to decide on the “strategic” tag for other projects. The 2020 draft says no information on “such projects shall be placed in the public domain”. This opens a window for summary clearance for any project deemed strategic without having to explain why.
Additionally, the new draft exempts a long list of projects from public consultation. For example, linear projects such as roads and pipelines in border areas will not require any public hearing. The ‘border area’ is defined as “area falling within 100 kilometres aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India.” That would cover much of the Northeast, the repository of the country’s richest biodiversity.
About Environment Impact Assessment (EIA):
Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.
EIA systematically examines both beneficial and adverse consequences of the project and ensures that these effects are taken into account during project design. It helps to identify possible environmental effects of the proposed project, proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects and predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented. By considering the environmental effects of the project and their mitigation early in the project planning cycle, environmental assessment has many benefits, such as protection of environment, optimum utilisation of resources and saving of time and cost of the project. Properly conducted EIA also lessens conflicts by promoting community participation, informing decision makers, and helping lay the base for environmentally sound projects. Benefits of integrating EIA have been observed in all stages of a project, from exploration and planning, through construction, operations, decommissioning, and beyond site closure.
The eight steps of the EIA process are presented in brief below:
Screening:First stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
Scoping:This stage identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated. This stage also defines the boundary and time limit of the study.
Impact analysis:This stage of EIA identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
Mitigation:This step in EIA recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
Reporting:This stage presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties.
Review of EIA:It examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
Decision-making:It decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
Post monitoring:This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.
2. NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
News: International India report on Wednesday urged the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women to set up offices in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the people there had not had any redressal of their rights violations after the closure of the State Commissions a year ago.
About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC):
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is a Statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA).
The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.”.
The Protection of Human Rights Act mandates the NHRC to perform the following:
Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation
review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures
to study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation
undertake and promote research in the field of human rights
to visit jails and study the condition of inmates
engage in human rights education among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means
encourage the efforts of NGOs and institutions congress to working in the field of human rights.
it considers the necessity for the protection of human rights.
requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.
The NHRC consists of:
A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women , National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities serve as ex officio members.
The sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:
The Prime Minister (Chairperson)
The Home Minister
The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)
The Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)