On 26 November, the Centre informed the Delhi High Court that it had translated the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification into all 22 vernacular languages listed in the Constitution's Eighth Schedule. The proposed EIA 2020 announcement, in particular, has been heavily criticised, with academics and activists alike describing it as an attempt to weaken environmental governance. After several hearings, the Centre had agreed in principle on August 27 this year to translate the text into all 22 languages. The Ministry was adamantly opposed to the translation of the document, telling the High Court that it would cause administrative turmoil and that implementing the translation into 22 languages would be impossible.
The draft EIA 2020 notification, dated March 23, 2020, was first published in the official gazette on April 11, 2020, by the Ministry. A study or report on environmental impact assessment ("EIA") is designed to identify, assess, and evaluate the economic, environmental, and social effects of a proposed project or development activity (such as a mine, dam, industrial unit, etc.). The EIA is a vital part of sustainable development since it is used to estimate the environmental implications of a project during the pre-planning stage so that decisions may be made to minimise any negative effects on the environment. The argument against EIA draft 2020 is that it provides for post-facto clearance. This indicates that a project could operate under the provisions of the draft EIA 2020 even if it was developed without environmental protections or without receiving environmental clearances.
Another point of dispute was that the new draft has a list of projects that have been suggested to be exempted from public participation. The list includes all modernization or irrigation projects, all building construction and area development projects, extension or widening of national roadways, and all national defence and security initiatives. People from tribal communities and rural areas were unable to attend and express their concerns due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Delhi High Court on 30th June 2020 was hearing a PIL that asked for the draft EIA to be translated into 22 vernacular languages which were vehemently opposed by the Government. The court had noted in January 2021 that it couldn't comprehend why the Centre was "vehemently" opposing its order to translate the draft Environmental Impact Assessment into all 22 languages included in the Constitution's Eighth Schedule. It had argued that the government would have to comprehend objections to the draft EIA in local languages, so "what was the harm of translating it into all 22 languages?" The court had stated in February 2012 that the central government should not pursue its position that the draught EIA should be translated in all 22 languages "combatively."
After multiple hearings and debates, the Central Government on 27 August agreed to translate the draft bill into 22 vernacular languages. On 26th November the centre submitted that the EIA Draft Bill was translated into 22 languages. and in addition to this, the Delhi High Court also directed the Central Government a time period of 60 days for various stakeholders to go through the act and submit their objections in their respective languages.
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