Have you read the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Draft? If you are not well-grounded in the English language it will be difficult for you to make any sense of the EIA.

Even if you are well-grounded in English it will be difficult for you to make head and tail of it if you are not acquainted with the nicety of legal terminologies. Just read the following.

“Whereas, the Central Government proposes to issue following notification in exercise of the powers conferred by the sub-section (I) and clause (V)of sub-section(2) of section 3 of the environment (Protection) Act,1986 (29 of 1986) for imposing certain restrictions and prohibition on the undertaking some projects or expansion or modernisation of such existing projects entailing capacity addition, in any part of India, in the suppression of the Environment Impact Assessment notification vide S O1533 dated 14 September 2006 and its subsequent amendments, is hereby published, as required under sub-rule(3) of rule 5 of Environment (Protection) Rules,1986, for the information of the public likely to  be affected thereby; and notice is hereby given that the said draft notification shall be taken into consideration on or after the expiry of a period of sixty days from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing this notification are made available to the public.”

That was only the beginning. If you read through this 83-page document almost on each page you will come across such jugglery of legal terms and references of clauses and sub-clauses of many legal documents.

Our knowledge of the English language will not help us understand this unless we understand some law. That is also not enough.

You must have immense patience to pursue the matter and sufficient time to devote to it.  All these years, we were given to understand that knowledge is the key to people’s empowerment.

But, we didn’t know that knowledge can also be a threatening thing and instead of clearing our doubts it can be be used to obfuscate things. Isn’t the EIA an example of threatening and confounding people with knowledge

There are highly paid legal experts to draft such legal documents to hide their intentions in the dexterous use of terms and terminologies. These things are plainly impossible for a common man to understand and react.

Fortunately, all the intelligent people on the earth haven’t sold their souls to corporates and their lackeys. There are still independent-minded people around.

Then there are their political opponents. And again, there are many public-spirited groups and organisations. There are many in those groups and organisations who are experts in deciphering such coded texts and revealing their intentions. They are our heroes.

What is there in this EIA? There are many things. But what is the essence of it? As we know environment impact assessment is a process under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which prevents industrial and infrastructural projects from being approved without assessing its impact on the environment and livelihood of people. This ensures that each project should go through the EIA process for obtaining environmental clearance before it is set up.

EIA covers projects such as mining of coal or other minerals, infrastructure development, thermal, nuclear and hydropower projects, real estate and other industrial projects. The projects are assessed on their potential impact on the environment. Based on the assessments, they are granted or denied environmental clearance by a panel of experts.

The EIA wants to bring in radical changes in the Environment Protection Act of 1986. But, the officials of the concerned ministry should have known the background of the 1986 Act better. They should have gone a little deeper into the matter to understand its import.

Let us what was the background of the act:  “In the wake of the Bhopal gas Tragedy or Bhopal Disaster, the Government of India enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution. Passed in March 1986, it came into force on 19 November 1986. It has 26 sections and 4 chapters. The purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. They relate to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property. The Act is an “umbrella” legislation designed to provide a framework for central government coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water Act and the Air Act.”(Wikipedia)

Now has the degradation of the environment stopped or increased since the passing of the 1986 Act? Do we need to prove it or the grim picture is written all over India?  The fire in Bhagjan is still burning! What the government actually wants to do? Whether it is industry, service sector or anything, the present government is incapable of handling and managing anything.

They are good only at building mammoth memorials and temples. They want to handover our fields, ores, minerals, waters, forests and everything to the corporates and private players. The corporates and private players can do anything so long they continue to pay hefty donations to the coffers of the ruling party for winning elections. Degradation of the environment! Let it be! The uprooting of the local people from the project area! Let it be!

Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: malakarparesh@gmail.com