Standing up for change 

As we emerge from COVID-19, we need to make a choice about what kind of India we wish to live in.
Standing up for change 

BENGALURU : Bengaluru students have joined hands with over 50 university student unions, college environment clubs, and other youth groups from around India to condemn the proposed passing of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020. They are demanding that it be put on hold and rewritten as per recommendations by environmental experts to lead India into a green recovery. The bill, yet to be passed, is open for public suggestion, till June 30. 

In an e-mail campaign, spearheaded by the students of Ashoka University and led by Anjali Dalmia (20), a letter signed by student groups like AISA and Youth4Swaraj, and  students of Jain University and Jindal Global Law School, among others, has been sent to  Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. “We should use the EIA to bring India out of the COVID-19 pandemic as an environmentally aware country through a green recovery. While economic revival is a national priority, this should be done without compromising the environment and society, as in the long run, it is our natural ecosystem which will support us,” says Dalmia. 

According to the students, the new EIA Draft Notification intends to bring in controversial amendments such as post-facto grant of approval, exemption of several large industries from public hearings, permission for industries to submit just one compliance report a year rather than two, increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects and river valley projects. “As citizens of this country and current stakeholders, we have many reasons to care about our environment.

As we emerge from COVID-19, we need to make a choice about what kind of India we wish to live in. Our youth have decided to grow up on a land which has thriving forests and clean rivers, a balanced economy that places importance on sustainability and communities, and a system of policy-making that promotes dialogue with the citizens of India,” says Taanika Shankar, a second-year economics major student at Azim Premji University. 

From research, Smruthi Ananth, a member of the Sustainability Committee at Azim Premji University UG, says over the last 50 years, around 50 million people in India have been displaced due to development projects. “Dams, mines, industrial development and others account for over 21 million development induced IDP. The youth of India, whose future will be impacted by decisions made today, believe that the proposed amendments to the EIA pose a serious threat to the environment and society, giving a free rein to several businesses and destructive industries such as mining and construction,” says Ananth. 

Shankar adds that recent times have observed the effects of a weak environmental policy. “Mumbai’s Aarey forest was cleared to build a metro shed despite protests. Vizag’s LG Polymers caused a gas leak in May. Land was cleared to extend the ports in Goa regardless of protests in 2016. Despite the improvement of rivers and lowered pollution levels during lockdown, the MOEFCC is still approving destructive projects,” she rues.

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