Former environment minister and Congress party leader Jairam Ramesh has said that his criticism towards the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification has nothing to do with the inclusion of the 55 amendments that have been made to the existing EIA since it was enacted in 2006. Ramesh's comment has come at a time when Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, claimed that the provisions termed controversial in the draft notification were there in the notification of 2006.
The Congress leader said that he has never opposed the codification of the 55 amendments that have been made in the 2006 notification. He is against the re-writing of the notification.
"There were gradations even in 2006. There were categories. What is happening now is categorisation has become larger and the role of public hearings has come down significantly. Thirdly, nobody can raise any protest except governmental organisations (against flouting of EIA norms). What sort of a law is this which does not allow the local community, impacted the most by the project, to protest? This is completely anti-democratic and anti-environment. It was not there in the 2006 notification," Ramesh says.
In an exclusive interaction with Business Today, Ramesh said he never understood the concept of post-facto approval. "Even during my time there were people who came and said we have done it. Lavasa is a classic example of a project that happened before getting approval. How do you justify these things? I am totally against this concept. Everybody knows there are laws. It is not that businesses do not know there are laws. This is typically Indian jugaad. Abhi project lagayenge, baad me dekhenge", he said.
The former minister said that he never approved such decisions during 26 months when he was the minister. According to him, there is logic in codifying the amendments that have been made in 2006 notification. "Let me say clearly and categorically, whatever amendments have been made, let's not reopen that, let us codify it and move on," he said.
The draft EIA notification saw a record 17 lakh suggestions coming from public when it was open for public comments till last week. The most common complaint was that the notification is not for environment protection, but for facilitation of environment clearance, which is beyond the scope of the Environment Protect Act under which EIA rules are made.