The Madras High Court has been moved calling for a direction to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) to publish Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports and clearances concerning developmental projects in the local/vernacular language, as opposed to confining to their publication in English alone..The writ petition filed by one Jesu Rathinam of the collective Coastal Action Network came up before the Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam on Friday. The Bench has directed the Centre to respond within six months..Rathinam has prayed that the Court direct the government to ensure that the following documents, which are part of the clearance process for major developmental projects, be published in the vernacular/local language of the area in which the development project is situated:.Form 1 (application submitted by the project proponent)Environment Impact Assessment reportClearance issued under the EIA Notification, 2006 and the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011.As noted in Rathinam’s petition, under the prevailing environmental laws in the country, development projects likely to have a large environmental footprint require prior clearance. A large part of the clearance process involves informed decision making by stakeholders, including the local people living in the area where the project is sited. While this is the case, the petition points out,.“…[the] requirement of disseminating information in a language that is understood by the people of the region is fundamental to ensuring that they [local population] participate in the process as informed entities..This assumes great significance in light of the fact that in our country, all major projects like thermal power plants, ports and industries are sited in rural areas where the local communities do no speak or read the English language. It is submitted that while English can be used for the purpose of convenience, it cannot be thrust on peoples who do not have an understanding of the language. The percentage of people who speak and understand English in our villages and backward areas is hardly significant and it is an alien language to the majority.“.It is also highlighted that the right to public participation before green lighting a development project has been recognised under International instruments such as the Rio Declaration, 1992 and the Aarhus Convention, 1998. This mandate has also been incorporated in Indian law, particularly through the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006..In particular, the 2006 EIA Notification lays down a detailed procedure to carry out mandatory public consultation before clearance is granted for a development project. As part of this process, the applicant (seeking approval for a development project) is required to submit a draft and summary EIA reports in the local language as well as in English, Further, mandatory public hearings have to be read out to the audience in the local language..The statement of issues raised by the public and the comments of the applicant are also required to be prepared in the local language. Moreover, notice of the public hearing itself has to be published in the local language dailies. The Courts have further emphasised time and again that such public hearings should not be reduced to a mere formality..In this backdrop, Rathinam has raised concern stated that the above named documents are only published in English, thereby defeating the purpose of public consultation and violating the people’s right to a clean environment under Article 21 of the Constitution..When the local people are thereby rendered unaware of the contents of Environmental Clearances, as well as whether the clearance has been granted at all, it also affects their right to legal remedies. Particular reference in this regard is made to Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, which specifies a fixed period of limitation even in the case of challenge to an environmental clearance..“By the time people seek help and assistance and gain some cursory knowledge of what has transpired, the time limit imposed so by law expires and they lose out their right to participate in environmental decision making,” states the petition..The petitioner therefore argues that to provide crucial information concerning the project in English alone is “to make a mockery of the people and the Constitutional, legal rights bestowed on them.”.A representation raising these concerns addressed to the MoEF last December did not yield any response, prompting Rathinam to move the High Court.