More than 18 months after it was first notified, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has finally made available the translation of its draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in 22 languages.
The move comes six weeks after the Centre had told the Delhi High Court that it will translate into 22 languages the draft EIA 2020 notification which had drawn heavy criticism with experts and activists alike terming it as an effort to dilute environmental governance.
“Any person interested in making any objections or suggestions on the proposals contained in the translated versions of the draft notification, may forward the same in writing to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, or send the same on the email on or before December 15, 2021,” the MoEF&CC said as it posted the translation of the draft EIA 2020 notification in 22 official languages on its website on October 12.
It also gave the typical government disclaimer where in case of any discrepancy between the translated version of the draft notification and original draft notification, which was in English, it would be the latter that shall prevail.
The Ministry had originally published the draft EIA 2020 notification dated March 23, 2020, in the official gazette on April 11, 2020.
Environment conservationist and founder member of Social Action for Forests and Environment (SAFE), Vikrant Tongad had challenged the notification last year in June demanding extension in time for people to send in comments in view of the lockdown due to pandemic. The High Court not just allowed an extension but also addressed the point that the draft notification was published in only English and Hindi.
Tongad had asked, when the impact of the proposed changes in the EIA 2020 would be felt across the entire nation, why was the draft only in two languages? “Due in part to the ‘far reaching consequences’ of the consultation process, the High Court had ordered the 83-page draft notification to be translated into the 22 languages recognised in the Indian Constitution and posted on several government websites within ten days.
The Ministry had vehemently opposed the same and told the High Court that it would lead to administrative chaos and that there would be administrative difficulties in the implementation of the translation of 22 languages.
Several hearings later, the Centre had on August 27 this year agreed in principle to translate the draft into all 22 languages.
The High Court will next be hearing the matter on October 21.