Maharashtra

Maharashtra State Environment Protection Agency: Pathetic performance, sits over destruction of rivers

Above: Illegal Sand Mining in Pune (Photo: Indian Express)

At State level the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) is the regulatory authority for granting environmental clearance to the projects falling under Category ‘B’ in Schedule of EIA notification, 2006, which receives projects recommended by State level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC). SEAC is constituted for the purpose of assisting the SEIAA. Both SEAC and SEIAA are constituted under the EIA notification. For Maharashtra there are three SEACs. SEAC-I looks after appraisal of all the projects related to Industries, Mining, Irrigation and others, excluding building projects. SEAC-II looks appraises all the building projects falling under Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and SEAC-III appraises the building projects falling under Non-MMR region.

SANDRP looked at the decisions of SEAC-I (hereafter referred to as SEAC) for 17 meetings (of year 2015-16) specifically for projects which involve rivers, water bodies and also which have large water footprint e.g. sugarcane. The projects related to rivers and water bodies mainly consisted of sand mining projects, medium irrigation projects, dredging of rivers for proposed waterways, newly proposed or capacity enhancement of sugar factories and few other specific projects such as solid waste dumping site proposed by Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) which is close to the river etc.

At the outset it has to be said that the minutes for all the meetings are highly generic with little or no project specific elaboration especially of the environmental impacts. For most of the projects especially sand mining the remarks and conditions are standard. If one is trying to understand the rationale behind sanctioning some projects it finds no mention. Many of the projects like sand mining, river dredging or solid waste management sites near flood lines have been approved despite of evident grave risk. ‘No project’ does not seem to be an option at all.

Minutes of the meetings reflect how the project proponents (PP) have taken rivers for granted. Despite repeated violations SEAC has bestowed tremendous faith in PP that the conditions it stipulates will be complied with.

Remarks made by the committee give an impression of inadequate impact assessment of the projects. There is enough room to question if any serious impact assessment happened at all.

All in all after studying the minutes it becomes apparent how government bodies have failed to curb violations and damage to the rivers. Continue reading “Maharashtra State Environment Protection Agency: Pathetic performance, sits over destruction of rivers”