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Environment Impact Assessment draft: Scientists call it biggest threat to ecological security of J&K

Srinagar:  Scientists have flagged draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, claiming that it can seriously threaten the ecological security of Jammu and Kashmir.

On September 2, five hundred scientists, researchers, and academics from India’s leading institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) wrote an open letter to the Union environment ministry, urging it to withdraw the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, saying it is likely to have a catastrophic effect on the ecological and environmental security of the country.

Among them are the signatories from the Centre for Research and Development (CORD) at the University of Kashmir, and Department of Wildlife Sciences, SKAUST Kashmir.

 “Overall, we have come to the conclusion that the Draft Notification, in its current form, is likely to seriously threaten the ecological and environmental security,” the signatories wrote.

Primatologist and Researcher Mehreen Khaleel said the impact of industrial accidents on habitats surrounding it has been a subject of intense debate over the years.

“After the Bhopal gas tragedy occurred in 1984 in which 15,000 people were killed, people realized that the industries that should be set up should have an environmental clearance,” she said.

The researcher said there was a sustained demand for understanding the impact of industry on the environment.

“This demand was met by the EIA draft constituted in 2006. However, the present draft does away with the requirement of clearance,” she said.

Mehreen noted people cannot protest since that freedom has been snatched away from them as per the clauses of EIA, draft 2020.

“Mines, geo plants and industries, and railway projects will come up through these protected areas leading to catastrophic degradation. The 2006 draft afforded much more safeguards,” Mehreen said. 

Citing an example, another researcher from SKAUST-K said Hirpora wildlife sanctuary in the Shopian district is important for the conservation of Markhor.

“Already they are installing telephone lines and power projects along the Mughal Road and they pass through the Hirpora sanctuary. It is true that development is important but it should not happen at the cost of the environment. Such things can become quite prevalent in other protected spaces because of the EIA draft 2020,” he said, wishing not to be named.

The draft was released on March 23 as part of the process to overhaul environmental regulations for infrastructure projects. The draft also proposes a shortening of the time for public hearings, which affords people affected by projects the opportunity to understand them and give their consent for them.