# Vedanta and the Dilution of Environmental Regulations: A Comprehensive Analysis
The relaxation of environmental regulations by the Union Environment Ministry in 2022 sparked controversy as it allowed mining companies to increase production without holding public hearings. This development was followed by extensive lobbying by the Vedanta group, according to a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The issue has implications not only for the environment but also for corporate influence on policy-making and India's climate goals.
## Regulations Removed
### What Changed
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) eased regulations, allowing mining companies to increase production by up to 50% without holding public hearings. Additionally, the ministry also amended the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) law, exempting oil and gas exploration projects from public hearings.
For instance, these changes would allow a mining company that was previously restricted to extracting 100 tonnes of ore to now extract 150 tonnes without community input.
Such amendments permit companies to bypass crucial environmental safeguards, potentially leading to increased pollution and environmental degradation.
Ignoring public hearings could mean that mining companies may not adequately address the concerns of the local communities who might be directly impacted by pollution or loss of livelihood.
## Reasons Behind Lifting the Curbs
### Lobbying by Vedanta
OCCRP claims that the regulations were removed due to lobbying by the Vedanta group. Anil Agarwal, the chairperson of Vedanta, even wrote a letter to the then Environment Minister, advocating for these changes.
As an example, the Vedanta group has managed to secure approvals for at least six of Cairn Oil & Gas's projects in Rajasthan since the change in regulations.
### Political Donations
Internal documents reveal Vedanta has been a significant donor to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), possibly influencing the relaxation of these regulations.
Entities linked to Vedanta donated ₹43.5 crore to the BJP between 2016 and 2020, making them one of the top 10 donors.
## Expert Opinions
### Lack of Public Consultation
Environmental experts criticize the government for not consulting the public before making these regulatory changes.
A study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy claimed that the government bypassed public debates and scrutiny by announcing these changes through office memos.
## Climate Change Concerns
### Global Implications
India being the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases makes these regulatory changes a matter of global concern.
Loosening environmental safeguards could make it challenging for India to meet its commitments under international agreements like the Paris Accord.
The relaxation of environmental regulations has opened up a Pandora’s box of issues ranging from corporate influence in policymaking to environmental degradation and climate change. The move, highly advocated for by Vedanta, raises questions about the influence of corporate lobbying on government policies.