In January this year, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MEF) had, with much fanfare, introduced a clause in the Environmental Impact Assessment notification by which feasibility reports were to be made available to environmental groups for comment. However, organisations like the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry seem to have succeeded on May 4 in making MEF alter the clause, which was meant to promote people's participation in ensuring ecologically-balanced industrial development.
According to the new version of the clause, "Public shall be provided access, subject to public interest, to the summary of the reports/environmental management plans at the headquarters of the impact assessment authority." However, now the clause rules that only environmental experts and those residing at or around the project site, or at the site of alleged adverse environmental impact, can comment on the report or make recommendations.
Moreover, MEF has the discretion to completely bypass the recommendations of experts and the affected populations. It can also do away with the environmental impact assessments in the case of projects that it decides are unlikely to cause a significant impact on the environment. Besides, the reports have to be procured from the impact assessment authority (MEF) and not the industry.