EIA notification lacks sensitivity towards environment: Chhattisgarh CM

Exempting a large number of projects from public hearing, EIA and granting of post-facto clearances will adversely affect the rights of the forest dwellers to conserve, said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Friday raised strong objection on the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020, saying that it lacked sensitivity needed towards the conservation of environment, an official said here.

In a letter to Union Minister of Environment and Forest Prakash Javadekar, Baghel also made several suggestions urging him to consider them in the interest of environment conservation and forest dwellers before finalising the notification, the public relations department official said.

"Chhattisgarh is predominantly a tribal state with 44 per cent forest cover. Bastar, Surguja, Koria, Kawardha areas of the state have been recognised as 'Scheduled Area' under Article 244(1) of the Constitution of India, which provides protection to these scheduled areas against such laws derogatory to the land rights of indigenous population.

"At the outset, an executive action by way of a 'notification' cannot override the statutory protection granted under the FRA (Forest Rights Act) and the PESA (the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act," Baghel said in the letter.

Therefore, the EIA notification 2020 should be in consonance with the rights of the tribals and panchayats, he asserted.

The chief minister said, "It is also mandatory to consult with a gram sabha/panchayat before acquiring land for developmental projects and resettling project-affected people."

"But, the draft notification completely overlooks this mandate and does not make it mandatory for the project proponent to get any such approval from the gram panchayat which grossly violates the rights and interest of village panchayats in scheduled and tribal areas," the letter said.

He also said that exempting a large number of projects from public hearing, EIA and granting of post-facto clearances will adversely affect the rights of the forest dwellers to conserve, manage and protect forests.

The draft notification advocates exclusion of activities like leveling of ground without tree felling and geotechnical investigation from "prior environment clearance".

These activities have an impact on landscapes, particularly in mountain terrains, so these should not be kept out of the ambit of the environmental permission, he said.

"Raising objection over several other provisions of the draft notification, Baghel expressed hope that all the issues which he has raised will be addressed by the Centre before the draft notification is finalised," the official said.

He said the notification, in its current form has completely ignored the sensitivity needed towards conserving the environment, the official added.


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