New Delhi [India], Aug 6 (ANI): Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday issued a point by point rebuttal to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh's objections on the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 and termed the "publicity" of his letter as "premature".
He asserted that the final notification has not been issued and the draft notification is still open for public consultation for more than 120 days.
Referring to a tweet on EIA notification by Ramesh, Javadekar said he had sent a detailed response to his July 25 letter in the morning.
"Today morning only I had sent you a detailed response to your July 25, 2020 letter, which was delivered at your residence office, still you chose to write this letter and make it public through twitter. I am sharing today's letter here once again," Javadekar said.
The minister's response came after the Congress MP put out a letter on Twitter regarding draft EIA notification and suggested that it may be kept in "abeyance" until the standing committee completes its deliberations.
"Dear Prakash Javadekar, our Parliamentary Standing Committee has been inundated with requests from various stakeholders to give them an opportunity to present their views on DraftEIA2020. The notification may be kept in abeyance until the committee completes its deliberations," Ramesh said in his tweet earlier today.
In his letter, Javadekar said he has taken note of Ramesh's suggestions and objections to the draft EIA notification 2020 and these along with other suggestions and objections received from stakeholders will be considered on merit before finalizing the notification.
"I was little surprised to see this correspondence in the media as Draft EIA Notification, 2020 has not been finalized yet as the public consultation is still underway and the process of finalization may take more time. Therefore, publicity of your letter was premature," the minister said.
He said that Ramesh's point that the "Government intends to give ex-post facto approval to the cases involving violation" is absolutely wrong connotation because Environment Clearance (EC), which will be issued is prospective in nature, and previous actions resulting in violation will be made liable to stringent penal action as per the statutory provisions.
"The main purpose of this provision is to bring all violators under regulatory regime by imposing heavy penalty. You will also agree that we should not allow such companies in perpetual unregulated status. When I looked back to the records, it was noticed that previously such violators were allowed to regularize on permanent basis via Office Memorandum (OM) issued in 2010," the letter said.
"You must be knowing that this was struck down by NGT that OM cannot override the notification as no public consultation was held while regularizing. This government has engaged the public and has received hundreds of thousands of suggestions/objections. So, we are doing it not through OM but through new proposed notification with wider public consultation," it said.
Taking on Ramesh's second objection related to reducing time period for public hearing, the minister said that 30 days period have been given for conducting public hearing but the actual public hearing takes place one day only in the presence of district authorities.
"Thus, we are not reducing the process of public hearing but making it more meaningful and 82 category projects are exempted from public hearing since 2006. We have not changed that. We have many suggestions on addition of more industries in this category which we have taken note of it," he stated.
Javadekar said that the government is allowing expansion without a public hearing only in cases where the proposed expansion does not lead to an increase in pollution load and with adequate environmental safeguards.
Clarifying on the Congress MP's objection on raising the validity of Environment Clearance (EC) tenure for 10 years, the minister said that the EC is valid for 7 years and which can be further extended by another three years as per the present EIA notification of 2006 regime.
"So every project proponent needs to visit office, again and again, seeking an extension. Instead, we are proposing to give permission for 10 years at one go so that an entrepreneur need not come to government offices again and again," he stated.
Responding on another concern, Javadekar said that the Central Government notifies the constitution of State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) on the basis of a proposal submitted by the respective states/UTs.
"Today, there are seven states/UTs which have not recommended any names for constituting SEIAA. These are Delhi, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and Goa. So all the cases of these states/UTs come to Central Government for appraisal in the absence of SEIAA. Therefore, to ensure that proposal should be approved by respective SEIAA, we have proposed to appoint the SEIAA if the state government fails to do so within a reasonable time," the letter said.
Javadekar also assured Congress MP that he is ready to discuss various issues in detail when the situation warrants.
"I am also ready to discuss in details when the situation warrants. Again, I reiterate that Government has issued a draft notification not the final notification, and this is still open for public consultation for more than 120 days, double the period mandated in the statute i.e. 60 days are given in the instant case," he said.
Ramesh, a former environment minister, responded to Javadekar's letter and said he received it after he had sent his letter.
"thanks. i emailed you my letter at 10:59 am. your reply came a few hours later. this is all a matter of record," he said. (ANI)