Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said on Monday that the criticism of the Environmental Impact Assessment, 2020, was “premature”, as the document was merely a draft at this stage, ANI reported. He said the ministry will consider the suggestions it has received and then prepare a final draft.

“As per rules, only 60 days notice is to be given, but owing to Covid-19, we extended it up to 150 days,” Javadekar said according to News18. “Thousands have sent their views, but some are overeager and hence they are protesting. People jumping at the draft [EIA] is not a fair practice. It is just a draft right now, we will take a call on these views and then it will be finalised.” Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of the ministry’s World Elephant Day celebrations.

The minister claimed that the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance-led government did not consult the people on key environmental decisions. “I have mentioned this in my letter and reply to [Congress leader] Jairam Ramesh,” he said. “This is all unnecessary and premature.”

Javadekar also objected to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s comments earlier in the day. Gandhi called the draft a “disaster” and urged people to protest against it. “Those who want to now protest, during their regime took many of the big decisions without consultations,” Javadekar said, according to PTI.

The new updates to the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment notification 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. Several environmentalists and organisations have alleged that the draft notification does away with the requirement for public consultation for a number of projects that could create an adverse ecological impact.

Ramesh had said last month the draft notification reduces public participation in all steps of the environmental clearance process by “lessening the notice period for public hearings and doing away with them for a large category of projects”. In response, Javadekar called this view unfounded” and based on “misrepresentation”. Ramesh is the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

On August 5, the Karnataka High Court directed the Ministry of Environment to not publish the final draft notification until September 7. The court noted that since the draft Environmental Impact Assessment, 2020, was published on March 23, two days before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus, people had not been able to file objections to the document. It also criticised the publication of the document only in Hindi and English.