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Draft EIA a ropeway for industries to infiltrate: AYWO

Tura, Aug 1: The Achik Youth Welfare Organization (AYWO) has written to Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Prakash Javadekar to relay their opposition to the proposed Draft Environment Impact Assessment, 2020.
The AYWO stated that the EIA would become the ropeway to allow big industries and firms to infiltrate into Garo Hills through its ‘modernization’ program, which as per them was regressive in nature. The NGO has written their apprehensions through a petition sent on Friday.
“There are multiple touch points that we oppose as the EIA favours industrialists rather than those affected by such industrialization. Trying to undermine the involvement of ‘affected people’ by reducing the time frame for accepting the grievances is discriminatory and against the very foundation of democracy,” said vice president, Silkam Marak.
Further the NGO opposed the move to allow industries to submit yearly compliance reports, rather than half yearly saying the move is against the balance of sustainable development and environmental protection.
The proposal allows certain categories of industries to be operationalised by categorising them as ‘strategic’ without public consultations.
“We see this as a crucial step to take the power away from the miniscule communities or affected people,” added Alexander Sangma, assistant general secretary.
The NGO through its petition submitted demands that they wished to put forward with the first one being the subject of post facto clearance which meant that industries without proper environmental safeguard procedures could pay a ‘fine’ as punishment. They opined that such legislations would have serious effects on people on social, environment and economic fronts.
“The proposal will embolden such industries and cause harm to the populace. It can be described as the government trying to legalize projects that have already caused harm and it is illogical on your part to issue a legal sanction to such defaulters. This provision should be done away with immediate effect,” they felt.
They further added that the public response time, which has been reduced from 30 to 20 days, was in itself a challenge for authorities and would result in poor quality of public participation.
“The proposed EIA 2020 will further strengthen the discretion powers of the government, while minimising the public engagement in safeguarding the environment. To limit the public voice by curtailing the period of receiving complaints/representations from the public in the largest democracy is uncalled for. It is an uphill task for us to scrutinize and come up with points for resentment,” felt AYWO.
The exemption of public exemptions for a long list of industries was another point which stood out. These include chemical manufacture, petroleum products, inland waterways development, widening of highways, construction of buildings and development of areas, modernization of irrigation projects etc.
“This is gross Injustice towards our people since we believe that many projects under this will have direct or indirect impact upon us. As owners of our land, if we do not have any say upon the various projects, it is a gross injustice. This provision needs to be scrapped,” asserted the NGO.
They also questioned the categorization of some industries as strategic with such operations not being placed in public domain or scrutiny saying the same opened a window for summary clearance without explaining as to why these industries were strategically important. This provision, they felt also needed to be revised.
On the issue of compliance, the NGO questioned the proposed draft which states that complaints should be from the government themselves or from developers.
“No firm or industry will petition against its own for its violation. We foresee no scope for public to raise its head against the violations in the proposed draft. Therefore, this particular provision also needs to be revisited for the greater cause of the people of this great nation,” felt the NGO members.