The Union environment ministry issued a new office memorandum on November 18, 2020, that mandates its expert appraisal committee (EAC) to meet “at least” twice every month to “cut down the time” for environmental clearances (ECs).
The EAC is an expert body of the ministry responsible to okay or reject proposed projects – by awarding or withholding ECs – under the environment impact assessment process. Though the EAC is an advisory body, the Union environment ministry in almost all instances goes by its recommendations, since it comprises experts.
The Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has issued Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 in March 2020. The opening paragraph of the draft notification 2020 states that the purpose of the notification is “imposing certain restrictions and prohibition” on the development projects. The purpose of amending the notification is said to “make the process more transparent and expedient”. However, as one reads through the 83 paged verbose notification and puts several pieces of the proposed amendments together, it becomes more and more clear that the purpose is in fact dilution of the EIA process, protecting the project proponents from any kind of public scrutiny, covering up for the violations and making the Environmental Clearance (EC) process more and more non-transparent, undemocratic, unjust and unaccountable. Continue reading “Draft EIA Notification 2020: Dilutes EIA process & encourages violations”→
Experience of the current Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process under the current EIA notification of Sept 2006 tells us that the process needs strengthening in every aspect. The Narendra Modi government has now proposed a new EIA notification, whose draft has been made public, strangely during the lockdown period. The draft notification, in stead, proposes weakening of the whole EIA process in practically every aspect. Continue reading “Draft EIA 2020 will weaken every aspect of EIA process”→
Clearer rivers[i], cleaner air, more birds and wildlife around us, reduced emissions of global warming gases, rock bottom demand of fossil fuels, quieter surroundings, view of Himalayan mountains from Jalandhar and other places, more flamingoes in Mumbai, reduced road accidents, to name a few. Can we call them collateral Benefits of Covid-19 induced lockdown? It’s true that with the kind of unprecedented sickness, misery and impacts that Covid-19 has brought, with all the attendant Hardships to the poor, the death and the sickness of thousands, it’s difficult to talk about any benefits of this episode. But on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day 2020 on April 22, a lot of people are talking about healing of the earth. (The above photo is a screenshot from official Earth Day 2020 website.)
And there is little doubt that this indirect fall out of man made Covid-19 crisis, this healing of the earth was long overdue. It has in fact brought people closer to the nature. Naturally, question arises, how can we sustain these collateral benefits of this crisis? It will of course demand a lot of doing by each of the earth resident to make it possible to sustain these benefits. Continue reading “Earth Day 2020: Can we sustain the Collateral Benefits of Covid Lockdown?”→
“Bolo Jai Jai Baba Bhole”, the Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi, while speaking at Kedarnath in Uttarakhand in Oct 2017[i], asked the people in audience to chant with him. Indian deity Mahadev, the presiding deity at Kedarnath on the banks of Mandakini river is possibly the closest to rivers and nature among all the deities, as is also clear from his attire. Baba Bhole is one of the many names of this deity. Incidentally, the massive, controversial Pancheshwar Dam a pet project of Mr Modi will also submerge the Pancheshwar Mahadev Temple, where too, the presiding deity is same Bhole Baba. But we will come back to Bhole Baba. Continue reading “Who exactly needs the Pancheshwar Dam?”→
No claim of equity for work done during pendency of application
The Principle Bench of National Green Tribunal on Oct 27, 2017 admitted a comprehensive Appeal (No 33 of 2017) challenging the Environment Clearance to Phase I of Ken Betwa River Linking Project. The order of the Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson of NGT), Hon’ble Justice Jawad Rahim (Judicial Member) and Hon’ble Bikram Singh Sajwan (Expert Member) on Oct 27, 2017 (available on Oct 28, 2017) noted: “Learned Counsel for the respective respondents accepts notice and prays for time to file reply. Copy of the application be furnished during the course of the date. Let the reply to be filed within two weeks from today and rejoinder within two weeks thereafter. List the mater on 27th November, 2017.” Ritwick Dutta, Rahul Choudhary and Meera Gopal are the lawyers representing the petition. Continue reading “NGT Admits Appeal Challenging Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa Project”→
COPY to: 1. IA Division (River Valley Projects) MoEF, Delhi
2. Chairman and Members of Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects
Respected Members of Public Hearing Panel for Pancheshwar Dam,
The public hearing now being conducted for the massive Pancheshwar Dam at Pithoragarh today, as part of the requirement under the EIA notification of Sept 2006 is being held in complete violation of letter and spirit of many norms of the EIA notification. Hence these public hearings should be cancelled. They should be rescheduled after appropriate conditions are achieved for the public hearing. Some of the key reasons for this are listed below, but these are not exhaustive reasons, but only a list of key indicative reasons. Continue reading “Cancel Pancheshwar Dam Public Hearings: It involves too many violations and illegalities”→
Union Minister of State of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (Independent Charge)
Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh, Delhi 110 003
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (PS to MoEF Minister)
We have just learnt that Prof Sharad Jain of NIH, Roorkee, and chairman of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower Projects (RVP), is also holding additional charge of DG of NWDA, see: http://www.nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/6419983647.pdf. His office just told one of us that he has been holding this charge since about three months already.
This is a clear case of conflict of interest. As you know, a number of NWDA projects come to EAC for approval at various stages. One such project that came before the EAC headed by Dr. Jain was the Ken Betwa project, which the committee headed by Dr. Jain promptly cleared in very first meeting of the reconstituted EAC in Dec 2016, weeks before Dr. Jain took over as Director General of NWDA, over ruling the issues that earlier four meetings of the EAC had raised about this project. How can one expect that the EAC chairman would be able to objectively, independently and scientifically appraise a project of the organisation (NWDA in this case) of which he is the Director General?
Under the circumstances, we believe there is no option, except that you must ask Dr. Jain to resign from his post as chairman of EAC, as his holding additional charge of NWDA DG, and already in conflict of interest. We also request you to ask the EAC to review their decision about Ken Betwa Project (and any other NWDA project) that the current EAC may have appraised, after appointing a new chairman of EAC.
We would like to bring to your attention that there is already a precedent in this context when in 2009, the then chairman of the EAC (RVP), Dr P Abraham was asked to resign since he was also director of hydropower companies whose projects came before EAC headed by him.
We hope you will act promptly on this issue. There is some urgency of this since the next meeting of EAC (RVP) is on May 31, 2017, that is tomorrow.
1. Prof Brij Gopal (Retired Prof from JNU, Delhi), Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia, Jaipur, email@example.com
2. Dr E A S Sarma, former Secretary, Govt of India, Vishakhapatnam, firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala (Formerly with IIM Bangalore), Uttarakhand, email@example.com
4. Vimal Bhai, MATU jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, firstname.lastname@example.org
In an unprecedented first ever Audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which recently conducted Performance Audit on ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ has unambiguously stated that the existing processes for grant of Environmental Clearance are fraught with serious violations, noncompliance and deficiencies.[i] In fact River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects have been highlighted for poorest quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, maximum irregularities during Public Hearings, and non-compliance of Environmental Clearance conditions.
This is a resounding slap on the face of the functioning of the current and past Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EACs on Dams and vindicates and validates what SANDRP and other civil society groups have been saying for long. This is indeed much needed critical feedback when EAC is seeking to make its proceedings less and less transparent and providing false justifications for the same.Continue reading “CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams”→
Maharashtra & Telangana governments, it has been announced, will be signing a pact for three irrigation projects to be constructed on River Godavari. Under the agreement, the two states would take up Tummidihatti, Medigadda (Kaleswaram) and Chanaka–Korata projects. Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao has reportedly said that “this would herald a new era in the relations between the two states and would be a standing example of how the states can resolve inter-state disputes without the Centre’s intervention.”[i]
This pact which has been looked at as ‘historical victory’ for Telangana for convincing the neighbouring states is in fact one of the most blatant and outright violations of India’s environmental laws. Tummidihetti Project & Medigadda Project featured in the agreement have long history of gross irregularities and violations exposed by several apex agencies as well as media. SANDRP has visited these project sites multiple times, studied and written extensively about the projects and also repeatedly sent submissions to Chief Minister of Maharashtra pointing out the violations. The agreement is also being signed, keeping the affected people and also people in the Godavari river basin in two states completely in the dark. Some of the links for these articles are given at the end of this article. Continue reading “Proposed Maharashtra Telangana Inter-state Water sharing Agreement of Aug 23, 2016: In complete violation of people’s rights & environmental laws of India”→