MoEFCC DRAFT EIA NOTIFICATION,2020: Public on Back Seat ?

 
                                                                      0407202
                                                                   Rajesh Deoliya

The draft EIA Notification,2020 describes “Public Consultation"  as the process by which the concerns of local affected persons and others, who have plausible stake in the environmental impact of the project, are ascertained with a view to appropriately take into account all such material concerns while designing the project. The concept of public hearing was introduced for the first time on 27.01.1994 through S.O 60(E) 27.01.1994 of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Government of India. In receiving environmental clearance public hearing is most difficult process. It is first point where project proponent directly interact with the local public. 


The public issues are sometimes difficult to tackle. A large gathering of public have divided and diversified views, support groups and anti-groups, possible agitations, self interests of local influential bodies. NGOs with levels of pro- development and anti-development, all these are part and parcel of public hearings. The conductance of public hearing is a priority work for local government. It is also a  tiresome task for project proponent to see that it is completed in the way they want- obviously a successful and peaceful one, every word uttered during public hearing by the public presentees make the project proponent smile or worry. The project proponents work hard to see that all stake holders are well coordinated and project related information is passed to all stake holders but even then there are many who do not receive project related information. The project proponent is duty bound to inform the local community, and project affected persons in particular, about the project parameters affecting their life. The  public hearings in recent past have turned into agitated crowds against the projects. Therefore some sections in government and business see this as hindrance in the economic development. However, the interest of project affect persons and local community cannot be ignored so  a public hearing is essential for any project falling in category A an B1 to the schedule of Environmental Impact Assessment Notifications. 

2.0 LEGAL REQUIREMENT OF PUBLIC HEARING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE:

The EIA Notification, 2006 para 7(iii) mandates public hearing which is further detailed in Appendix IV of the same notification. It is stated as    

        All Category ‘A’ and Category B1 projects or activities shall undertake Public Consultation, 

      except  the  following:-

 

i

Modernization of irrigation projects (item 1(c) (ii) of the Schedule to the notification)

Ii

All projects or activities located within industrial estates or parks (item 7(c) of the Schedule to the notification) approved by the concerned authorities, and which are not disallowed in such approvals.

Iii

Expansion of Roads and Highways (item 7 (f)  to the notification) which do not involve any further acquisition of land.

Iv

Maintenance dredging provided the dredged material shall be disposed within port limits

v

All Building or Construction projects or Area Development projects (which do not contain any category ‘A’ projects and activities) and Townships (item 8(a) and 8(b) in the Schedule to the notification).”

vi

All Category ‘B2’ projects and activities.

Vii

All projects or activities concerning national defence and security or involving other strategic considerations as determined by the Central Government.

3.0 THE COMPONENTS OF PUBLIC HEARING:

Public Hearing is conducted by the Pollution Control Board (PCB) of state or Union Territory concerned within 45 days of a request from the applicant. The concerned public is informed through advertisement in newspaper and also through the public announcement in concerned areas.  It is presided over by District Magistrate or his representative, Officers of Pollution Control Board.


(a) Disclosure of  Project Information to Public:

The project proponent makes available copies of executive summary and draft EIA- EMP report of the project for the knowledge of general public at designated places like gram panchayat ,PCB office, District Collector office, at web site of the PCB concerned etc

     (b) Location of Public hearing :

The public hearing should be carried out   at the proposed project site or in its close proximity- district wise, to be carried out in the manner prescribed in Appendix IV of the notification so that the project affected persons can participate.

     (c)   Disclosure of Project related information during Public Hearing

The project proponent through the presentation describes the project details, its effect on environment, mitigation measures to control pollutants,  project benefits to stake holders, expenditures towards corporate social responsibilities, the permissions and clearances obtained etc. 

     (d)  Videography:

          The entire process of public hearing from start to finish is videographed for future         reference. The videography should be uninterrupted, neat and clear view of proceedings.

     (e)   Recording of views:

        After completion of presentation the presentees can express their concerns about the project. It may be in faour or against or neutral. The written submissions at venue, by post to regulating authorities can also be made, if desired. Later, the reply to the queries are made by project proponent. They  become part of minutes of meeting of public hearing and become integral part of the final environmental impact assessment and environmental management plan which is the basic document for assessment by Expert Appraisal Committee for grant of environmental clearance.

 

4.0 GENERAL CONCERNS IN PUBLIC HEARING:

           There may be many concerns in the mind of local public about certain project, these concerns are project specific but some of them which are most  common are listed below:

 

Education and Employment

Land Price and Compensation

 

Pollution

 

Water Problems

 

Corporate Social Responsibilities.

Deforestation

Adivasi Land Acquisition

 

Health and Sanitation

 

Transportation

 

Ash disposal  from Power Plants

 

 Large area required for major projects like Thermal Power Plant

Heavy Number of land loser (River Valley Projects)

Shortage of water in down stream side (in River Valley Projects)

Flooding due to River Valley Projects

 

 

Loss of agriculture land (Loss of agriculture land)

Submergence of archeological sites

 

Large scale resettlements and Rehabilitation(in River Valley Projects )

Demographic change and Cultural Shift

 

Socio –economic issues.

 

Disturbance to Terrestrial Flora  and fauna

Socio Economic Environment

Women Empowerment

Loss of aquatic ecology

 

River valley projects are generally inhabited by Adivasi community which is main sufferer due to loss of land and lower skill for negotiation for land price and better livelihood.  

 

 

5.0 The DRAFT EIA NOTIFICATION,2020: Avoiding Public Hearing   

The draft notification,2020 have received very high critical response due to proposed drifting from present EIA Notification,2006 in many ways. The Public Hearing is one of them. According to the sub clause 10 of the draft Notification, 2020; the projects falling in category 'A' and 'B 1' will be requiring public consultation while projects falling in category 'B2' will not require public consultation

Further, the clause 14 ( c) states that if required, based on the nature of project, public consultation through any other appropriate mode may be recommended by the Appraisal Committee, or the Regulatory Authority, on case to case basis; However, the Regulatory Authority may decide on the feasibility and requirement of public hearing and/or consultation in the case of defence projects being considered under sub-clause (7) of clause 5 of this notification.  Its worry some that this clause may be applied to the category A and B1 projects which will defeat the purpose of public hearing, conceptualized way back in 1994.  Recently, taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic situation one such public hearing is conducted in Maharashtra through Video Conference mode in Nagpur district for sand mining projects.

Sl

The Disputed Clauses for Public Hearing in Draft EIA,2020

Comments

1

All Category ‘A’ and Category “B1” projects of new or expansion proposals or modernization with capacity increase more than 50 percent shall undertake Public Consultation. Provided, the public consultation is exempted for the following:-

a.  modernization of irrigation projects falling under the item 4 of

     the Schedule;

b.  all projects falling under items 10(f), 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23,

     24, 25, 27, 36, 40 of the schedule located within Notified

     Industrial Estates;

c.  all projects falling under item 42 and 43 of the Schedule;

d.  all Category ‘B2’ projects and activities;

e.  all projects concerning national defence and security or

     involving other strategic considerations as determined by the

     Central Government;

f.   all linear projects under item 31 and 38, in Border Areas.

g. all the off-shore projects located beyond the 12 Nautical Miles

 

Provided further, that in all the projects under item 31( i.e pipeline projects Oil, coal slurry etc)  of the schedule, the public consultation shall be limited to the district (s), where the National Park or Sanctuary or Coral Reef or Ecological Sensitive Area is located.

 

The clause of giving exemption for capacity increase of more than 50 percent is against the principle of consultation with local public. Because say for example a 5 million tonne mine can expand its production further 2.5million tone to achieve total 7.5 million tonne production capacity, while for a fresh 2.5 million tonne project public hearing is required. This can be applied to many other projects also. The point of argument is that the quantity of pollutants are increasing and surpass the threshold standards and in many cases, the existing projects are not following pollution norms. The recent LG Polymer case is good example of this, where a gas leakage has taken many lives. Incidentally the project was situated in notified industrial area.

2

In case the SPCB or UTPCC concerned does not undertake and complete the public hearing within the specified period, as above, the Regulatory Authority shall engage another public agency or authority which is not subordinate to the Regulatory Authority, to complete the process within a further period of forty working days, as per procedure laid down in this Notification.

This situation is expected in election days which results in delay of the public hearing due engagement of local administration in election work. This is a good move which assures time bound public hearing.

3

If the public agency or authority nominated under the sub-clause (7) of the notification,2020 reports to the Regulatory Authority concerned that owing to the local situation, it is not possible to conduct the public hearing in a manner which will enable the views of the concerned local persons to be freely expressed, it shall report the facts in detail to the concerned Regulatory Authority, which may, after due consideration of the report and other reliable information that it may have, decide that the public consultation in the case need not include the public hearing.

This is one of the highly debated change in the draft notification which dilutes the importance of public hearing, in extraordinary situation this may be accepted but fear is that this should not become a practice because in coal mining, iron Ore, Bauxite, Thermal Power Plants, River Valley projects, highway projects etc we have seen the local resistant for the projects. By this clause the projects can get the environmental clearance but practically it may be difficult for project proponents to work smoothly in the area in friendly way. This clause gives route for bypassing public hearing process and  only some writing comments will be enough to fulfill the conditions of public consultation of which public hearing is a part.

 

6.0 The Conclusion:

The public consultations must not be bypassed or made to be flexible to such extent that it can be mis-utilized. A transparent and fair public hearing has got more importance when thrust is made to boost the plummeted economy. A project works, for several years in an area, hence its activities lay a vital role in day to day life of the local community. Hence listening and addressing the demands of public will certainly give confidence to allow industries in those areas also which are still untouched by developmental process.

***

 

Disclaimer: 

The views expressed here are of writer only and do not belong to any organization, associated with

Comments

Sir, By ignoring/liberlising public hearing will damage local environment. Eventually it will give serious negative impact on the health of local public. Wonderful article written with all facts. Media and public should take cognizance of the issue.
Best wishes,
Subhash
Anonymous said…
Systemetic knowledge of public hearing and his relation to EC

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