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The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a regulatory framework adopted since 1994 in India to evaluate the impact and mitigation measures of projects, however, even after 25 years of adoption, EIAs continue to be of inferior quality with respect to biodiversity documentation and assessment of impacts and their mitigation measures. This questions the credibility of the exercise, as deficient EIAs are habitually used as a basis for project clearances in ecologically sensitive and irreplaceable regions. The authors reiterate this point by analysing impact assessment documents for three projects: the doubling of the National Highway-4A, doubling of the railway-line from Castlerock to Kulem, and laying of a 400-kV transmission line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the state of Goa. Two of these projects were recently granted ‘Wildlife Clearance’ during a virtual meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) without a thorough assessment of the project impacts. Assessment reports for the road and railway expansion were found to be deficient on multiple fronts regarding biodiversity assessment and projected impacts, whereas no impact assessment report was available in the public domain for the 400-kV transmission line project. This paper highlights the biodiversity significance of this protected area complex in the Western Ghats, and highlights the lacunae in biodiversity documentation and inadequacy of mitigation measures in assessment documents for all three diversion projects. The EIA process needs to improve substantially if India is to protect its natural resources and adhere to environmental protection policies and regulations nationally and globally.
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