The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) needs its own EIA
Despite an understanding of the fragility of the IHR, there is scant acknowledgement of its need for a different set of environmental standards and clearances.
Reevaluating Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Environmental Impact of Development Models: Recent disasters like Teesta dam breach and Himachal floods underscore the need for robust Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
- Evolution of EIA in India: Started in 1976-77, extended to projects needing Public Investment Board approval. 1994 EIA notification made Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory.
- Decentralization in 2006 and Controversial 2020 Draft: 2006 notification decentralized EC processes, granting powers to state governments. Draft 2020 version faced criticism for perceived industry bias.
Mountains in the EIA Framework
- Unique Vulnerabilities of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR): IHR's ecological significance, seismic activity, and climate sensitivity warrant specialized environmental assessments in EIA processes.
- Lack of Independent National Oversight: Supreme Court's 2011 recommendation for a regulator remains unimplemented, compromising impartial project evaluation and possibly favoring proponents.
- Inadequate Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: EIA often reacts to proposals, neglecting holistic evaluation of cumulative effects, highlighting the need for comprehensive reform.
- EIA: Form over Substance: EIA process often becomes a superficial formality, lacking substantive evaluation, potentially diminishing its efficacy in environmental protection.
- Special Regions Overlooked: Regions like the IHR, with unique ecological needs, are not adequately addressed, underscoring the need for tailored assessments.
- Exploring Alternatives for Holistic Policy: Policymakers should consider tools like strategic environmental assessment for comprehensive policy-making, ensuring long-term environmental sustainability.