GUWAHATI: Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has written a letter to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar opposing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020.
"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/drilling operations in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park/Biosphere Reserve and Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary areas," Saikia underlined.
Saikia said that the proposed law is objectionable primarily because it paves the way for posto-facto clearance of projects in eco-sensitive zones and sidesteps input by communities likely to be adversely affected by such projects.
In his letter, Saikia pointed out that the private companies concerned can even prepare their own EIA reports by engaging private consultants.
He claimed that the BJP-led Government of Assam is also pursuing a policy of putting environmental concerns in the back burner. An influential person has recently constructed a resort with a private road bang in the middle of one of the nine identified animal corridors in the Kaziranga National Park, he pointed out.
"This is in complete violation of the Supreme Court order dated 11-12-2018 which declared a 10-km 'Eco-Sensitive Zone' pertaining to the Kaziranga National Park as well as the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and also the apex court's order dated 12-04-2019 which directed that no construction activity should be allowed even in private lands in the 9 identified animal corridors of the Kaziranga National Park," said Saikia.
He added that the State Government only partially implemented an order passed by the Gauhati High Court in 2016 for eviction of illegal settlements in and around the Kaziranga National Park. Around 300 poor families were evicted but others, including resort owners, have not been touched so far.
"The Gauhati High Court had passed another order on 21-10-2019 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 State governments are following similar greed-based policies," Saikia added.
The leader urged Javadekar that the ongoing drilling and mining operations are stopped forthwith in the eco-sensitive zones of Assam. He also stressed that the Draft EIA Notification, 2020 in its present form should be scrapped.
Lastly he demanded that the Government of Assam should be directed to immediately enforce orders passed by the Supreme Court and Gauhati High Court in connection with protection of the environment and wildlife.