Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV) and Centre for Law and Policy hosted a webinar on 18 August 2020 titled ‘EIA Draft 2020—Facts, Politics and Beyond’. The webinar was a platform to dissect the legal implications of the provisions of the Draft EIA 2020 and address the questions regarding the capabilities of the general public in understanding the policy and the regulations placed for public participation.
Award-winning journalist Nitin Sethi from Reporters’ Collective was one of the eminent panellists. He discussed the political and social impact of the draft and pointed out that the licensing process laid down in the draft is the most prominent spheres for corruption. He emphasised that these decisions must be transparent, based on science and not on discretion. He opined that the criterion for judging a project should not be the amount of investment but rather the environmental standards and impacts. “EIA is the only option through which the citizens get to see the sea and watch the waves,” he said.
Shyama Kuriakose, Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, was also a member of the panel who explained how law can be used as a tool to ensure an effective EIA regime while balancing the question of conservation versus development. Shyama, who gave a detailed and lucid explanation to the context and problem, argued against the reduction in the scope of public consultation in the new EIA Draft.
Adv. Maitreyi Hegde, Lawyer at the High Court of Kerala and Supreme Court of India and the Founder of Nyayanishta.com, argued that that it is important to have a decentralised environmental philosophy so that it is easier to understand the root cause of the crisis and take decisions based on the specific concerns. She highlighted ground-level realities of differing datasets coming from different governmental departments and also the National Green Tribunal benches being not constituted.
CVV’s Asst. Prof. Sreenath Namboodiri moderated the session. All the panellists concurred that it was necessary to revamp environmental laws and build a core environmental philosophy to establish a resilient nation and society. Dr. Arundhati Sundar from the audience supported the view of the panellists in promoting traditional practices in protecting the environment and how such practices may help to redefine the idea of development.