The website of a collective was blocked weeks after a sample letter criticising the draft of a new environmental clearance law was emailed over a thousand times to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, HuffPost reported on Wednesday. The website of Let India Breathe, letindiabreathe.in, an environmental protection collective, was blocked by the National Internet Exchange of India, a public sector company.
The National Internet Exchange of India also blocked access to FridaysforFuture.in – the India chapter of the international movement led by climate change activist Greta Thunberg, and ThereisnoEarthB.in, according to the Internet Freedom Foundation, an Indian digital liberties organisation.
The National Internet Exchange of India is the official entity for routing domestic internet traffic within India, and administratively falls under the Centre’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The law in question is the Environmental Impact Assessment, 2020, incorporating amendments to the 2006 version of the law. The environment ministry had put the draft law in the public domain on March 12 for a period of 60 days for discussion and feedback. On June 30, the Delhi High Court extended the deadline to provide public response to the draft to August 11. However, just a day earlier on June 29, the National Internet Exchange of India blocked the three websites, according to HuffPost.
The petition filed in the High Court, based on which it extended the time for public feedback, had said that the proposed new law does away with the requirement for public consultation for a number of projects. “This draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing regime, including removing public consultation entirely in certain instances, reducing the time for public consultation from 45 days to 40 days, and allowing post facto approvals for projects,” it had argued.
The new updates to the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment notification, which seeks to overhaul the existing EIA, 2006, prescribe the procedure for industries to assess the ecological and environmental impact of their proposed activity and the mechanism whereby these would be assessed by expert committees appointed by the environment ministry.
Documents accessed by Right to Information Act applicants had shown that Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar overruled senior ministry official’s recommendations to extend the time frame for public feedback on the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification.