EIA 2020: Changes And Controversy

EIA 2020: Changes And Controversy

The recent Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Draft Notification 2020 issued by the Indian government is seeking to modify public participation and the importance of environmental clearance in project.

Crux of the Matter

EIA 2020
The Delhi High Court recently extended the deadline for feedback for the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 to 11 August. The move came after the Central government extended the deadline from 10 June to 30 June, with the Court intervening after protests from activists.

What Is EIA?
The EIA was formulated in 1994 after the formation of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) of 1986 to regulate activities that “access, utilise, and affect natural resources”. It assesses the impact of activities like coal mining, industrial development, etc. on the environment, with the EIA clearance being compulsory before the initiation of any development project. It was first modified in 2006, with the next modification proposed in 2020.

So What’s New?

  • Post-facto clearance: Several projects operating in violation of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) would now be eligible for clearance application. The provision would be applicable only for solar thermal plants, digging of wells for drinking or irrigation, paper manufacturing from waste paper (or without bleaching), and other non-mining activities.
  • “Cognizance of the violation”: Recognition of the violation would now be done only the “project proponent” or the government authorities.
  • Cases of violation could now be possibly dealt with by levying 1.5-2 times “the ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation”.
  • “Inland waterways projects” and “expansion or widening of national highways” now exempted from prior clearance.
  • Projects concerning national defence development, highway expansion, modernisation of irrigation systems, projects under notified industrial areas, etc. now exempted from public consultation (it is feedback from local people and people having “stake in the environmental impact of the project”).
  • Linear projects concerning roads and pipelines in border areas (area within 100 kms aerial distance from LAC) would also be exempted from public consultation.
  • The maximum limit of 30 days for public feedback applications now reduced to 20 days.

Background And Rulings
The EIA 2020 aimed to implement the 2014 ruling of the Jharkhand High Court, which stated that the “proposal for Environment Clearance must be examined on its merits, independent of any proposed action for alleged violation of the environmental laws”. The modification is also driven by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently asking the Central government to “strengthen the monitoring mechanism for compliance of conditions of Prior Environment Clearance”.

Controversy And Impact

  • Violations can now be reported only by the “project proponent” or the government authorities.
  • Reduction of public response time from 30 days to 20 days cited as “weakening” of public participation.
  • Mass deforestation due to highway expansion would now be possibly unchecked as the project would be exempted from public consultation.
  • Several projects are already operating in the violation under the existing laws. Post-facto laws are expected to further diminish the adherence to laws.
  • As linear projects (roads, pipelines, etc) near the border areas are exempted from the public consultation, experts have shown apprehension over the biodiversity-rich areas of North-East.
  • Experts have claimed the draft as going against the recent statement of the Supreme Court of India, which stated on 1st April that “environment law cannot countenance the notion of an ex post facto clearance… which would be contrary to both the precautionary principle as well as the need for sustainable development”.

Recent Examples Of Mishap

  • Oil India Limited obtained the clearance to dig 7 wells inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Assam for gas extraction. The clearance was acquired a few days before the Baghjan oil leak in Assam, which killed several dolphins and other endangered animals.
  • The Vizag gas leak in May, which killed 11 people, occurred in the LG Polymers plant, which had been operating without the Environmental Clearance and was held guilty of the leakage.
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  • Team Trees was a collaborative fundraiser that managed to raise 20 million U.S. dollars before 2020 to plant 20 million trees. The initiative was started by American YouTubers MrBeast and Mark Rober, and was supported by personalities like Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Susan Wojcicki, and many others.
  • Life cycle assessment is a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with all the stages of the life-cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. The goal of LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services by quantifying all inputs and outputs of material flows and assessing how these material flows affect the environment.
  • The Leopold matrix is a qualitative environmental impact assessment method pioneered in 1971. It is used to identify the potential impact of a project on the environment. The system consists of a matrix with rows representing the various activities of the project, and columns representing the various environmental factors to be considered.

What’s Up With Earth And Her Environment?

Environment And Habitat Loss Discovered During Pandemic

The World Environment Day and Ocean day may have passed by on June 5 and June 8 respectively, but the rising environmental concerns haven’t gone away. Animals had started taking advantage of the urban cities as they entered lockdown during Covid-19. Activists are worried about these evolving natural habitats and the subsequent changing dynamics of flora and fauna globally. Are there short-term benefits from an environmental rebound in 2020 or will it last longer than the pandemic and seep in the post-corona world?

Crux of the Matter

On Land: Protests Against Projects That Can Kill Lungs Of Goa
Goa-based activists are raising their voices over virtual clearances given to two projects passing through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa. A letter has been sent to the Union Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change by a group of 149 scientists and conservationists on June 4 who are against cutting down 50,000 trees and diversion of 216 hectares of forest.

In The Forest: Climate Change Leading To Younger And Shorter Trees
Trouble is brewing up for the forest equilibrium as findings by PNNL (U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) suggest that climate change magnifies conditions like insect and pathogen outbreaks that compromise tree health and development. In fact, annual “carbon storage lost to insects” equals “the amount of carbon emitted by 5 million vehicles”. Additionally, when old-growth forests are shifted to non-forest lands, the trees on re-established harvested land are smaller with reduced biomass.

Additionally, a new study by Science Advances states that with vanishing forests, endangered animals like tigers are bound to vanish, with 24,000 km of new roads proposed to be built in tiger conservation landscapes in Asia by 2050.  The analysis covered nearly 1.16 million sq. km range across Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In Oceans: British Columbia’s Fading Fish Habitat
According to the Forest Practices Board, sediment from logging roads is negatively impacting fish habitat after doing inspections at 5 watershed sites. Effective sediment management is needed to be enforced, else upstream fish movement can be hampered permanently. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans verified this activity by explaining how elevated sediment in streams can decrease the abundance of plant life, which impacts the fish that feed on those very plants. 

Pandemic’s Impact : Unmasking Plastic Pollution Via Clinical Debris
For the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the major tool of precaution for social distancing and hospital work has been the extensive use of surgical face masks. It is practical to not consider their environmental impacts in the midst of the pandemic, but experts are worried that the ill-effects can prolong the virus.

Masks lying on the shore of one of the beaches of China, Source: HT

During a recent survey trip, Hong Kong-based environmental NGO OceansAsia found heaps of discarded single-use masks washed up on a 100-metre stretch of beach. The surgical mask disposal along with empty hand sanitizer bottles and soiled tissue papers is leading to a massive trail of clinical waste in the environment.

Silver Lining – Wildlife Basking In The Urban Sun

Flamboyance in Mumbai, India, this spring. The Flamingoes traditionally migrate from September to the end of May
Murrah Buffalo Herd, seen in New delhi on otherwise highways and roads
Leopard spotted by residents in a Chandigarh Locality
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  • Fauna comes from the name Fauna, a Roman goddess of earth and fertility, the Roman god Faunus, and the related forest spirits called Fauns. The term was first used by Carl Linnaeus from Sweden in the title of his 1745 work Fauna Suecica.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. A nonprofit corporation with nearly 400 employees, it claims that it has 6.5 million members and supporters, in addition to claiming that it is the “largest animal rights group in the world.” Its slogan is “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment. WWF is the world’s largest conservation organization with over five million supporters worldwide and supporting around 3,000 conservation and environmental projects. WWF has received criticism for its alleged corporate ties. It has also been accused of supporting paramilitary groups tasked with stopping poaching who are responsible for numerous human rights abuses.

Turning Polluted Air to Tiles

An Indian startup called Carbon Craft Design has developed the technology to make tiles from Carbon present in the polluted air. As the world witnesses some positive impact on the environment because of the subdued activity due to the Coronavirus lockdowns, this innovation seems to have the potential to change the course of the fight against climate change.

Crux of the Matter

The world is facing serious problems because of climate change. Many efforts are being made in terms of policymaking, technology, and innovation to tackle climate change. One of the major problems in urban areas is the increasing level of carbon. The construction industry is one of the major sources for the emission of carbon i.e. around 25% to 40% of global emission of carbon comes from the construction business.

Curios Use of Carbon
Carbon Craft Design in collaboration with the Boston-based Air-Ink launched the innovative equipment that captures the pollutants from the air and converts them into tiles. 30,000 liters (30,000,000 cubic centimeters) of air will be purified to make one tile. The process of making the tiles includes cutting, shaping, joining, and filling the mould before finally forming the tiles. The price of the one tile is around ₹190, whereas the conventional tiles range from ₹50-₹1000. 

We utilised the colour of pollution to our aesthetic advantage and created tiles in shades of black only. But since the pollution source varies each time, the shade of black could also vary.

Kishor Avhad, Lead Designer, Carbon Craft Design
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  • A carbon credit is a generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of different greenhouse gas. Carbon credits and carbon markets are a component of national and international attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
  • Another Indian startup called Graviky Labs uses carbon (released by factories and automobiles) to transform it into ink, oil-based paints and fabric paints. With their proprietary electrostatic filter called Kaalink, they capture pollutants from vehicles or generators, reportedly without impacting engine performance and transform it into this revolutionary product which they call “Air-Ink”.
  • Kickstarter is an American public benefit corporation based in Brooklyn, New York, that maintains a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to “help bring creative projects to life”. As of December 2019, Kickstarter has received more than $4.6 billion in pledges from 17.2 million backers to fund 445,000 projects.

Chernobyl Redux?

Chernobyl experienced an upswing in radiation levels. Recent forest-fires worked as a catalyst to increase the radiation level in the restricted area near the nuclear plant.

Crux of the Matter

Fire Near the Plant
Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 impacted the whole of Europe. Due to the nuclear accident, authorities vacated people living within 30 km of the site located near the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. On Saturday fire broke out in the wilderness around the nuclear plant. Because of the forest fire, there has been a spike in the radiation contamination in the air. The radiation levels recorded were 16 times more than the normal level. The fire has spread to about 100 hectares of the region.

To fight against the forest fire, Ukraine sent two planes with one helicopter backed by a unit of 100 firefighters. On Sunday morning emergency services said that the fire was not visibly burning and no increase in radiation level was recorded. The Ukrainian Government was planning to open up this site with a green corridor for tourists. The area without any human interference has developed a lot of natural beauty. The Ukrainian government wants to alter Chernobyl’s negative image. A recent historical drama on HBO named “Chernobyl” has made viewers across the world and in the newer generation conscious about the forgotten incident of the nuclear radiation break out in the Chernobyl plant. 

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Chernobyl

  • Many companies provide tour services for the villages and areas near the Chernobyl site to provide tourists with safe post-apocalyptic world experience.
  • Last year HBO released a miniseries titled “Chernobyl” which revolves around the nuclear disaster. It is the 5th Highest rated series on IMDb as of today.
  • Chernobyl is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history and is one of only two nuclear energy disasters rated at seven—the maximum severity—on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

COVID-19 Side effects: Can Earth’s Environment Recover and Hit a Reset Button?

environment

The flagship environmental channel, National Geographic and the reputed fact checker, Snopes recently debunked social media claims regarding improvement in the environment like increased dolphin and swan sightings in Italy. In the meantime, this has spiked up fresh debate between environmentalists and scientists worldwide: Can the human social isolation adopted to fight against the ongoing COVID-19, do any good to revive Nature? Or is it just a temporary distraction to the underlying problem at hand, i.e the pandemic itself?

Crux of the Matter

Small Step To Giant Leap in Carbon Footprint Reduction?
The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. As per reports released by researchers at Columbia University (CU), emission of carbon monoxide from cars and planet heating Carbon Dioxide (CO2), has reduced by nearly 50% as compared to 2019, improving the overall environment. With schools and businesses adopting strict work from home policy worldwide, there could be a further decrease in travel carbon footprint.

An analysis by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment suggests that there has been a 35% drop in energy usage of fossil fuels like coal, over a two week period due to less industrial activities. The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimates it to be equivalent to 200 million tons of CO2. In Europe, satellite images show nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions receding in northern Italy, Spain, and the UK.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:
The Epicentre of COVID-19’s Pollution Footprint changed in just about a month!

On the flip side, the household carbon footprint has the potential to increase. It depends mainly on weather conditions, geography and different family lifestyles followed at home. According to Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at CU, “People may spend more time watching television or using appliances if they’re cooped up in their houses, increasing household’s carbon footprint.”

India Takes Deep Breaths as Air Quality Improves
Over 90 cities in the nation have recorded minimum air pollution recently during the ongoing 21 days lockdown period aimed to control COVID-19. As per figures generated by the Government-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), there has been a noteworthy drop in PM2.5 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30 percent in Delhi. In Pune, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution has reduced by 43 percent, in Mumbai, by 38 percent, and in Ahmedabad, by 50 percent.

What Has Happened in the Past?
Julia Pongratz, professor at the University of Munich, Germany, discovered that epidemics left subtle prints on atmospheric CO2 levels, by measuring tiny bubbles trapped in ancient ice cores. The list included epidemics such as the Black Death in Europe in the 14th Century and smallpox in South America. Even in the case of a financial crash of 2008-09, there was an overall dip in emissions of 1.3%. Combined emissions from manufacturing, industrial processes and construction round up to 18.4% of global anthropogenic emissions.


Growth of global carbon emissions halved during 2008-2009 recession

Challenge Yet to be Addressed: Clean Energy Plans Paused
A global recession as a result of coronavirus shutdowns could stall the shift to clean energy. If capital markets lock up, it will become difficult for companies to secure financing for planned wind and electric grid projects, and it could bomb proposals already made or new projects. Low prices could further depress electric-vehicle sales and make people less inclined toward projects like retrofitting energy-saving homes and offices.

As a matter of fact, the world’s largest share of solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries are produced in China. The Dragon land is already relaxing environmental supervision of companies to stimulate its economy, which means that the aforementioned 25% cut in carbon emissions could evaporate, followed by even more emissions than before. Similarly, US has a $2 trillion stimulus bill passed earlier this week and is being popularised as the largest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history. It does include direct payments to individuals and extended unemployment benefits but not relief for renewables, such as crucial tax credit extensions for solar and wind energy.

Sneak Peek to a Zero-Carbon Economy?
The world can have a promising future of coexistence of both Human Beings, natural environment and other living species including birds and animals if there is both public and political will with international cooperation. Policymakers can further move forward with their climatic plans of action while keeping the global economy stable, as stated by the European Green Deal, a new policy package that commits European Union member states to zero emissions by 2050.

On the digital front, Tech giant IBM has already launched a Call for Code Global Challenge which addresses both climate change and COVID-19 and shall involve different coding communities round the globe. With the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow planned to be derailed till the pandemic cools down, online environmental activism is parallelly being carried out. Thus not with mere words, but by actual actions, we can look forward to a greener, more sustainable future.

India doing it’s own part in bringing together willing climate patriots

Complete coverage of the Global Coronavirus effect

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A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.

An individual’s, nation’s, or organization’s carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment, a life cycle assessment, or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting. More Info

2017 co2
Global emissions increased from 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 1900 to over 36 billion tonnes 115 years later.

Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants in the environment. From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year.80% people are affected by its unfortunate consequences, in the form of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. More Info