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 MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects in its meeting in January 2017 recommended Environmental Clearance (EC) to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang River Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. However, since the stage I forest clearance to Etalin HEP has not yet been accorded, the EC letter has not yet been issued. Hence there is an opportunity to stop EC to the project till the EAC reviews its decision.
It may be noted that Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in its meeting on April 23, 2020, has decided in the context of Etalin Project: “As this is a large sized project in the Himalayas, inputs of IA (Impact Assessment) Division of the Ministry on whether environmental impacts of the proposed project and mitigating measures have been considered, will be obtained.” This provides an opportunity for the MoEF to direct the IA Division and EAC to review its decision to recommend EC to the Etalin Project.
Even as the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects (RVP) appointed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in December 2016 completes three years with the end of 2019, it has kept up its record of green signaling everything that came its way in 2019.
There was just one exception: EAC in its meeting on January 28, 2019 rejected the proposal for EC (Env Clearance) extension for the Brutang Major Irrigation Project in Nayagarh District of Odisha, but it was essentially on procedural issue and the EAC “recommended for taking of the proposal afresh”, so it was not a full stop, but only a comma. The EAC failed to creditably appraise the EIA, the TORs, the public consultation process and decide on merit if the project was fit for approval. It approved everything that came its way, at the most occasionally asking for additional information. Never looking into the adequacy of the impact assessment or public consultation process or optimality of the project. Continue reading “Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects Green signals all in 2019”→
The Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in a most path breaking, remarkable report to the Supreme Court on the Ken Betwa Link Project Phase I (KBLP-I), on Aug 30, 2019 has raised fundamental questions not only on the appropriateness of the Wildlife Clearance given to the project, but also the viability, optimality and desirability of the project. This a massive, fatal setback for the KBLP-I. We hope the government wakes up to the reality and shelves the project and immediately goes for more viable, quicker, cost effective and less damaging options for Bundelkhand. We also hope the CEC continues to look at the other projects and applications that come their way with the same vigour and forthrightness that they have shown in this report. Continue reading “Fatal setback for Ken Betwa Link Project from CEC”→
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”→
(Above: Protest outside MoEF on Oct 24, 2017 when EAC met to consider EC for Pancheshwar Project)
Oct 23, 2017
Chairman and Members, Expert Appraisal Committee (River Valley Projects), Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Jor Bagh, New Delhi
Respected Chairman and Members,
The agenda of the EAC (for RVP) to be held on Oct 24, 2017, put up on the EC website only on Oct 18, 2017, just six days before the EAC meeting includes the 5040 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose project (PMP), India’s largest proposed hydropower projects. The agenda should be available at least ten days before the meeting, and this should also be a reason for not considering the Pancheshwar project by EAC for its meeting on Oct 24. Moreover agenda mentions 5600 MW Pancheshwar project, where as the capacity as per EIA is 5040 MW. Is MoEF just callous in mentioning wrong installed capacity or has the capacity gone up? In either case, the 5040 MW Pancheshwar project should not be on EAC agenda. Continue reading “Letter to MoEF’s Expert Committee: Why Pancheshwar Project should not be considered for Environment Clearance”→
Above: Ken Yamuna Confluence at Chilla Ghat (Photo by Siddharth Agarwal)
We are thankful & glad that Dr Sharad Jain has responded to our open letter to MoEF, circulated through email and blog[i] that he holding the charge of NWDA Director General and Chairman of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower Projects (RVP) involves Conflict of Interest. We are also thankful that through the Indian Express report (on June 3, 2017), he has provided another set of answers.
Union Minister of State of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (Independent Charge)
Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh, Delhi 110 003
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (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, firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Dr E A S Sarma, former Secretary, Govt of India, Vishakhapatnam, email@example.com
3. Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala (Formerly with IIM Bangalore), Uttarakhand, firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Vimal Bhai, MATU jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, email@example.com
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”→
SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-linkThe official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.
The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.