GUWAHATI, July 29 - Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has opposed the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020.
In a letter to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, the senior Congress leader stated that the notification, if adopted, will be against the interest of Assam and the North East.
�This proposed law is objectionable primarily because it paves the way for post-facto clearance of projects in eco-sensitive zones and sidesteps input by communities likely to be adversely affected by such projects. In fact, private companies concerned can even prepare their own EIA reports by engaging private consultants. This is a travesty of natural justice and a body-blow to the rights of indigenous people over their own land. This is extremely dangerous for Assam and the North East in general in view of the damage which has been already caused by mining and drilling operations in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park/Biosphere Reserve and the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary areas,� stated Saikia, who is also leader of the State Congress Legislature Party (CLP).
Saikia also demanded that the draft EIA Notification, 2020, be scrapped in its present form.
He alleged that the BJP-led government in Assam is pursuing a policy of putting environmental concerns in the back burner.
�For instance, an influential person has recently constructed a resort with a private road right in the middle of one of the nine identified animal corridors in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). This is in complete violation of the Supreme Court order dated December 11, 2018, which declared a 10-km �Eco-Sensitive Zone� pertaining to KNP as well as the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, and also the apex court�s order dated April 12, 2019, which directed that no construction activity should be allowed even in private lands in the nine identified animal corridors of KNP,� Saikia stated.
In the letter to Javadekar, the Congress leader further alleged that the Assam government has only partially implemented an order passed by the Gauhati High Court in 2016 for eviction of illegal settlements in and around the KNP.
�Around 300 poor families were evicted but others, including resort owners, have not been touched so far. Similarly, the Gauhati High Court had passed another order on October 21, 2019, on the basis of a PIL filed by me and asked the State government to set up a �Mines and Minerals Task Force Battalion� by the third week of January this year to stop illegal mining activities. However, the State government has ignored that order as well. The impact on the biodiversity of Assam can well be imagined when both the Central and the State governments are following similar greed-based policies,� stated Saikia.
He called upon Javadekar to ensure that the ongoing drilling and mining operations are stopped forthwith in the eco-sensitive zones of Assam pending a thorough review by neutral experts to find out whether environmental concerns have been properly addressed.
Saikia further asked the Centre to direct the Assam government to immediately enforce orders passed by the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court in connection with protection of the environment and wildlife.