File Photograph: Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on November 10 assured the state assembly that the government will protect the interest of the state after the opposition Congress expressed concerns over the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020.

While making significant intervention during Question Hour when Congress legislator Mayralborn Syiem inquired about the stand of the government, especially for a state with uranium ore, the chief minister rose to assure the house that there were several laws to
protect the land of the people, including those formulated by the autonomous district councils.

“We have the land transfer act and the autonomous district councils and it does not mean it (EIA) can bypass it as there are laws to protect our land. The point is that we will be here to protect the interest of our state,” Sangma told the house.

The chief minister also pointed out that several issues are taken into consideration before a project is sanctioned and environment was just one of them.

However, Syiem said that the draft EIA 2020 is an attempt by the centre to weaken environmental regulation and silence affected committees.

“The draft seems to favour industries and seem to neglect the balance between sustainable development and environmental protection, where projects can be undertaken without clearance under the EIA 2020, this is anti-people and anti-environment,” he said.

The Congress MLA also pointed out that the draft allows post-facto clearance which means all projects can go ahead and obtain clearances later.

“This is huge concern as we have seen the Government of India pushing certain acts (like the CAA) by bulldozing and this will directly and indirectly has an impact on the society in the days to come since our state has uranium ore, which the Government of India has been looking for so long,” Syeim said while seeking an assurance from the
state government to uphold the rights of public participation in all projects especially with respect to uranium in particular.

Senior Congress legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh suggested the government to convene for an all-party meeting to discuss on the Draft EIA, 2020 and come up with comprehensive suggestions since the bill is likely to be passed by the Centre.

However, forest and environment minister James Sangma informed the house that the process of consultation is over and the ball is now in the court of the central government.

Earlier, the forest and environment minister said that a total of 160 environmental clearances were granted offline by the state Environment Impact Assessment Authority.

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