KSU moves Centre against EIA notification, seeks withdrawal
SHILLONG: Keeping up with its motto Maitshaphrang Khlur Ka Ri (strive forward son of the soil) and in its bid to safeguard the state’s environment, the Khasi Students’ Union, Central Executive Council (CEC), has urged Centre to withdraw the proposed amendments of the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020.
In a letter to Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, the KSU expressed disapproval with the draft EIA Notification, 2020.
The KSU also urged the central government to reissue the draft only after the COVID-19-induced scenario is over and life limps back to normalcy.
The union also dreaded the new draft coming as a major embarrassment to the nation at the international level.
“The EIA notification is an important regulation through which the impacts of land – use change, water extraction, tree felling, pollution, waste and effluents management for industrial and infrastructure projects are to be studied and use in developmental decision making. Any change in this law has a direct bearing on the living and working conditions of people and ecology,” the letter to the union minister read.
KSU argued that the state, over the years, has had its shares of environmental degradation, leaving a drastic effect on the rich biodiversity, rivers and lakes, flora and fauna, and the social and health issues of the people.
Blaming unregulated mining of various minerals, deforestation, cement and coke factories for environment degradation, the union recalled itself highlighting incidents where some factories would even function without a valid environmental clearance, which has caused a long-lasting effect on the environment and health of the people for over the years.
Stating that it had also sought the government’s intervention in this regard, the KSU said the draft EIA notification 2020 will further affect the ecological balance of the state.
The KSU also pointed out that such move is derogatory to the fundamental principles of environmental jurisprudence and thereby, pose a threat to the people. “Such amendments have serious threats and may cause irreversible damage, which will lead to environment degradation,” it stated.
Another grievance the union highlighted was the exemption of Large Industries (B2 category) from Public Consultation.
The KSU stated that such exemptions are inexplicable and baffling, considering that many of these projects are meant for the public from whom this information will be hidden.
“It also goes against International Environmental Laws and agreements like the Stockholm Declaration, 1972, the Rio Declaration, 1992 and the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) – 25 held in 2019,” the KSU said.
The union also argued that as per the industries to submit compliance report just once a year, instead of twice a year according to the previous law, would allow for more dilution of environmental details.
The union suggested that the government should ensure there are widespread and informed public discussions on the implications of the amendments.
Meanwhile, KSU president, Lambokstarwell Marngar, accused the Centre of hounding the people with oppressive laws similar to a situation where the British Raj-employed soldiers used to oppress the people.
Marngar, who was speaking at the 185th death anniversary of Khasi freedom fighter, U Tirot Sing Syiem on Friday, also said that the EIA Notification, 2020, is unacceptable to the Hynniewtrep community as it follows unique customary laws and practices.
Speaking to reporters after the function, he said, “It was very evident that it (Centre) is )trying to do away with the public consultations/public hearings. On the part of the union, we find it unacceptable and we have to oppose it. With uranium deposits in the state, it has its eyes in the state and it may bypass the public”.
Marngar also condemned the three Autonomous District Councils of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills including the state government for keeping mum about the draft bill albeit it was already out in the website of the Ministry of Environment.