Expert Appraisal Committee, MoEF refuses to consider 2 VIDC projects from Buldhana for Environment Clearance siting violations
During its last meeting on 22-23rd March 2013, Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF has rejected considering two projects from Buldhana for violating EIA Notification (2006) and Environment (Protection) Act 1986. (see minutes here: http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/57_65thEACMiutes.pdf)
2 Irrigation Projects from Buldhana: Ar Kacheri Irrigation Project and Alegaon Irrigation Project, Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), were discussed for granting Terms of Reference (TORs). However, on the ground, both the projects have started work without an Environmental Clearance and this work was stopped only after strong local protests and even litigation. This was pointed out by the EAC and admitted by Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation. Together, both projects are set to submerge 436 hectares of forest and irrigated, cultivated land. Although 80% of the land under submergence is cultivated and irrigated by ground water, the Pre-feasibility reports (PFR) of the projects say that they will not cause submergence or affect population. EAC has pointed out this discrepancy too.
Alewadi project is just 1.75km from the core boundary of Melghat Tiger Reserve while Ar-Kacheri is 4.75km from the same. The projects have also received Stop Work order from the Forest Department in 2012.
Despite all these serious issues, the project proponent chose to hide these facts from the EAC. SANDRP had sent a submission to the EAC prior to the meeting, highlighting many issues and saying: “Considering the violations by both the project developers of EIA notification 2006 by starting work without the required clearances, the EAC should first recommend an enquiry into these violations and ask the responsible officials to be held accountable before even considering any clearance.”
The EAC has observed that both the projects have indulged in violations. According to the EAC: “Such cases are to be dealt in terms with the MoEF OM No. J-11013/41/2006-IA.II (I) dated 12.12.2012. Accordingly, the project proponent is required to submit an affidavit with an undertaking not to execute works without obtaining environmental clearance and furnish photographs of the site from all four sides of the project.” The OM also states for such violations, the State Government will have to take necessary legal action against the violations as per the Environment Protection Act. In case of serious violations, the MoEF reserves the right to reject projects all together.
Even as the White Paper on Irrigation Projects points fingers at Green Clearances as one of the reasons for time and cost overruns of irrigations projects in Maharashtra, the functioning of Water Resource Department itself has been responsible for these delays and irregularities. Without an Environmental Clearance, work on the project cannot start as per the EIA Notification 2006 and EPA 1986.
However, all Irrigation Development Corporations in Maharashtra have been breaking this law with impunity many times over. This was observed in case of Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation for several projects, Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation for numerous lift Irrigation schemes on Ujani and Vidarbha Development Corporation, for Lower Painganga Project.
With this decision, there is hope that VIDC and other IDCs in Maharashtra become less callous about issues relating to environment and affected communities.
–Parineeta Dandekar firstname.lastname@example.org
Himanshu Thakkar, email@example.com
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People