Thiruvananthapuram (IANS): Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said that the state government has come out with its opinion on the amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act, saying it does not agree with many of the points which have been raised.
Tuesday was the last day to submit the state's opinion on the draft ACT.
"More detailed discussions have to take place on several aspects. We have pointed out that flexibility according to state specific needs have to be made. One aspect which we have pointed out is that in the mining sector, the area for quarrying has been fixed from 5 hectares to 100 hectares, for which the permission has to be secured. We have pointed out that instead of 5 hectares, it should start from 2 hectares and strict protocols should be there for quarrying done in areas below 2 hectares," said Vijayan.
"The public hearing time has been cut short from 30 days to 20 days. We have demanded that it should not be cut down. Another aspect is that permission to be granted for small scale projects was accorded by a district committee which has been cancelled. This is not acceptable," the Chief Minister added.
K.P. Laladhas, former top official in the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said that the stipulated time-frame for finalising the draft and its subsequent enforcement was objectionabl in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"This draft has not reached many of the stakeholders due to the countrywide lockdown. We demand that a fresh draft be put in the public domain, that too after the lockdown is totally lifted. We are also convinced that the EIA 2020 is an attempt to skirt around all the major decisions of the National Green Tribunal taken over the past few years, and therefore we object to this draft," said Laladhas, who is presently serving as a principal of a leading college in Kollam district.
He also pointed out that instead of focusing on ensuring the protection of the environment, the draft EIA undermines the orders of the National Green Tribunal which had ruled against post-facto approvals.
"The purpose of this notification is to legitimise the illegalities committed by the industries. The draft EIA goes a step further as it institutionalises this fait accompli situation. For example, the draft EIA notes that 'such violations being recurring in nature may come to the notice in future during the process of appraisal or monitoring or inspection by regulatory authorities'.
"Another lacunae is the weakening of the public consultation process, which the draft EIA proposes. In the environment clearance process, public consultation is an important component," said Laladhas.
Rajya Sabha member and Chairman of the Kerala Congress (Mani), Jose K. Mani, said the massive landslide that took place near Munnar which left over 50 people dead is in itself the best example on what damage can be caused if there is any tinkering done as per the EIA notification of the Centre.
"This draft is a meek submission to the corporates as every new aspect in it is one which is against the people. This should not be accepted in any way," said Mani.