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Indian unions oppose harmful environmental rules

3 September, 2020Unions are urging the government to withdraw the draft notification of Environmental Impact Assessment rules as it is in contravention to India’s commitment to combat Climate Change and 2030 sustainable development goals.

The Environmental Impact Assessment rules play an important part in India’s environmental regulatory frameworks. The rules are derived from the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which was enacted after Bhopal industrial disaster in 1984. Originally it aimed to ensure that environmental impact of industrial and infrastructure projects are appropriately assessed and project-affected population’s views are obtained before being given approval.

The draft EIA 2020 has received widespread opposition and legal challenges.

Trade unions are calling it a “great departure from rules enacted in 2006”, with the draft seemingly facilitating corporate interests in some sectors like coal and other minerals mining.

The new draft seeks to restructure land use management in favour of corporates, while severely affecting the environment. Vulnerable sections of the society, especially the scheduled tribes will face severe impact of the harmful rules. In addition, the draft EIA 2020 has not been translated into several of the Indian languages.

Dr G Sanjeeva Reddy, president of INTUC and IndustriALL affiliate INMF, says:

“The current draft is not in line with international environmental standards and procedures, leading to catastrophic consequences for people. It is neither good economics nor sustainable development, and Indian unions are unified in demanding the withdrawal of the draft.”

Shortcomings include:

  • Allowing industries to start operations without prior environmental clearances and proposes post-facto approvals
  • Not providing for adequate time period to collect all environmental impact data for proposed industrial projects
  • Reducing the notice period for public consultation
  • Project documents are not needed in local language, limiting a genuine public consultation process
  • Increasing validity of environmental clearances allowing project proponents to hold land for long durations, paving the way for land grab

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“Diluting international labour standards and weakening environmental standards can trigger a race to bottom. With challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing industrial accidents, environmental sustainability should be given utmost priority and the government should reconsider EIA 2020 draft.”