MoEF Plan to Decentralise EIA Mechanism Draws Flak
KOCHI: The draft proposal by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to further decentralise the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) mechanism with regard to sand and gravel mining has raised apprehensions among the environmentalists who feared that the move would give more leverage to the mining lobby.
On the lines of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the ministry proposes to constitute district level authorities to conduct EIA and District Level Expert Appraisal Committee (DLEAC) to evaluate and give recommendations on giving mining lease in area up to 5 hectares. The guideline, posted on the MoEF website in September seeking public comments, is expected to come into force early next year. The District Environment Impact Authority (DEIA) will be responsible for proper and sustainable management of sand mining in the district. Alleging that the proposed character of the DEIAA is meant to help mining lobby, Dr Binu K Devassy, leader of ‘Paristhithi Samrakshana Janakeeya Samiti’, an organisation engaged in a legal battle and people’s agitation against mining mafia, pointed out that the members of the proposed district level authorities are not competent to carry out environment impact assessment. Going by the guidelines mooted, all the members of the authority are government nominees having no qualification to conduct EIA, which is a serious lapse, he said. This shows the utter indifference of the government in matters of grave concern like EIA. No environmentalists or activists or environmental scientists will be on the DEIAA,he adds.
Dr V S Vijayan, former chairman of the Kerala state Bio-diversity Board and member of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, said that a quick look at the guidelines shows a deliberate attempt to fill the DEIAA with government officials and their nominees.
“Basically, we stand for decentralisation. But the problem here is with the character of the district level authority where there are no representation of the community or civil society organisations,” he said. The four-member DEIAA will be headed by the district collector and will comprise Divisional Forest officer, District Mines Department Officer or geologist who will act as member secretary and an expert. The expert will be nominated by Divisional Commissioner or Chief Conservator of Forest for a period of three years, renewable for one more term. The Authority will be responsible for designating the area / stretch in river suitable for mining in the district and also identifying the area / stretch in river prohibited for sand mining. The DLEAC, which is expected to evaluate the cases and make recommendations to the DEIAA for environemnt clearance, will be chaired by Executive Engineer of Irrigation Department.