PM’s directive to bypass EIA draws flakOli concerned over delay caused by environment assessment in development activities
Environmentalists and concerned groups have expressed serious concerns over Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s instruction to ignore compliance with the existing environmental regulatory requirements in order to allow crusher industries to extract natural resources.
During a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, PM Oli had instructed the authorities concerned to take necessary measures to avoid Envi-ronmental Impact Assessment (EIA)—a mandatory provision that takes in account environmental aspects before the approval of development projects—for allowing crusher plants to extract and collect natural resources such as sand, gravel, boulders and stones.
An official with the Ministry of Population and Environment, who sought to be unnamed, confirmed the meeting and said the prime minister was concerned over how the EIA process had delayed development activities as it affected the supply of resources for infrastructure projects. “If the prime minister is against EIA, it will certainly cause severe damage to our environment,” said Bijay Kumar Singh, an environmentalist who worked with the Rastrapati Chure Tarai-Madhes Conservation Development Committee.
According to him, development should not come at the cost of environment. Without considering environmental consequences of development projects, Singh argued, sustainable development is impossible.
Many developers and even government bodies engaged in development projects have expressed their concerns over the EIA approval, which normally takes between one and three years to complete.
“EIA is criticised for the lengthy procedure and bureaucratic hurdles. But, rather than trying to avoid it, the ministry should shorten the time and make it more effective,” Singh added.
“This is a wrong decision taken at a time when environment is being degraded at an alarming rate. Poor implementation has threatened environment even when EIA is mandatory. Without it, the case will be worse,” the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists said in a statement on Friday.
EIA and other regulatory practices such as the Initial Environmental Evaluation are not obstacles to development but are means for sustainable development, read the statement.
Following the Gorkha earthquake last year, the government had expressed its interest to revisit the EIA provisions and shorten the time required for its approval to facilitate crushers to process stones, boulders, sand and gravel. The government later decided to shorten the EIA time from 126 days to 40.