Draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020- The Potential Fallouts in the Hills

By The Vacay Workers



© Kunga Tashi

The Environment Impact Assessment, as the name suggests, is a planned intervention by the state that guides Infrastructure Development Projects in mitigating the impact that it could possibly have on the Environment and on other socio-economic, cultural and human-health factors.


The powers vested under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 led to the genesis of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, which was first introduced in 1994. Since its inception, this subordinate legislation has been amended many times and in the fullness of time, the primal notification which was conducive to the ethos of environment protection has been gradually diluted.


The powers vested under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 led to the genesis of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, which was first introduced in 1994. Since its inception, this subordinate legislation has been amended many times and in the fullness of time, the primal notification which was conducive to the ethos of environment protection has been gradually diluted.


The draft notification severely erodes the foundations of an Inclusive Environmental Governance Regime by diminishing public consultation in the establishment of many development projects. The construction and extension of highways in the border areas, which comprises areas falling within 100 kilometres aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India, are now kept outside the ambit of public consultation. For other projects which mandate public consultation, the period within which the public is supposed to file their responses against the establishment of projects has been decreased to 20 days from 30 days. EIA should ideally secure sustainable development goals through public participation wherein informed public opinions are accommodated. Public participation should therefore be encouraged, which further transforms into a legal framework regulating development activities.

The draft further states that no information related to defence, security and other strategic projects will be available in the public domain. Without denying the importance of strengthening the defence and security infrastructure, the lack of definition given to ‘other strategic projects’ makes room for ambiguity and arbitrary actions. As a consequence, the government can now declare any project to be strategic and can avoid furnishing the details about such projects to the public.


Our region being crowned with hills and blessed with pleasant weather, has a great influx of tourists every year from all parts of the world and the local populace is highly dependent on the tourism sector for livelihood. The potential of developing our region as an eco-tourism hub may be severely affected by unprecedented and unethical forms of infrastructural developments which may further add to the already existing issues of congestion, scarcity of water, problems of waste management, etc.


The river Teesta is significant to the sustenance of hills of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim. The river has been subjected to an unprecedented number of hydropower development projects despite the fact that Teesta lies in a high seismic zone and the areas parallel to it are prone to rampant landslides. Due to its extremely controlled flows, the level of the river has risen to be almost at par with the highway that runs parallel to it, causing submergence of a large area and increasing threats to life. The Draft fails to recognise the need for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of all the hydropower projects on a particular river and maintains its practice of Single Project Assessment. The Draft consists of many more such intricacies which are geared more towards the ease of doing business rather than actual environment protection.


We are aware of the importance of infrastructure development in the hills. But the question remains, should we let externalities in the guise of development cripple our environment?





The Vacay Workers is a volunteering organisation based in Kalimpong. They are currently working in the formulation of a recommendation document with regards to the Draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 to be sent to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change before the 11 of August, 2020. If you’d like to understand more about the Draft EIA 2020 before sending in your recommendations to the Ministry, you can reach out to them at vacayworkers@gmail.com or @thevacayworkers Or you can send in your suggestions or objections about the Draft EIA 2020 directly at eia2020-moefcc@gov.in. Draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 explained in Nepali for local to understand.