Keywords: Environment Impact Assessment, Sustainable Development, Strategic Environment Assessment, Public Participation
‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need; but not every man’s greed’ -Mahatma Gandhi[i]
The present mechanism that prevails in India for clearing environmental projects through environmental impact assessments, defeats the entire purpose of this vindicatory exercise, which is based on the principle of furthering sustainable development. The process of assessment of the environmental impacts is the key ingredient in taking decisions pertaining to environmental clearance, but the inadequacies of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in India has thwarted the entire objective of an ecological, economic and social cost – benefit analysis for sustainable development. The procedure laid down for the functioning of this quintessential process consists of a number of fallacies which are counterproductive to creating a fine balance between growth and sustainability. This paper analyses the existential and eventual shortcomings and the impacts on society, which result out of strict adherence to a perceived just process, as the only means to achieve economic growth as well as societal harmony. The means employed in India to achieve the rationale of environmental sustainability is defeated when the EIA norms circumvent established international practices.
The EIA procedure in India reflects the change from red tapism to green tapism, with hindrance to ecology as well as the needs of the industry. Thus the need for the shift from the present system of environmental assessment can be made out from the inherent lacunae that persist within the bureaucratic system. The plethora of questions that the EIA raises eventually can be discerned into realizing that the machinery put in place to achieve its said purpose of rational decision making is following an ineffective method of assessment, on which depend the livelihood and future of the society. The urgency is not only with regard to a shift from EIA’s, but a structural reform in their functioning and the integration of practices that exist throughout the world in stark contrast to the EIA mechanism prevalent in the Indian scenario.