Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • Developer's defence

    Halcrow, consultants to Pondicherry Port Limited, could not give a detailed response to <i>Down To Earth</i>'s questionnaire pleading time constraints, but it did clearly say the environment impact assessment (EIA) it prepared "was in accordance with ToR (terms of reference) given to us by the client'.<br>

  • Big game players

    <b>Subhash Projects and Marketing Limited </b> (SPML) says it is a Rs 400-crore company with its registered office in Delhi, corporate office in Kolkata and branch offices in Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bhopal, Patna and Guwahati. It claims 25 years of expertise in turnkey projects, but its website has no reference to port development work.

  • Witness to opposition

    Every chair of the community hall of the Shree Shantadurga temple in South Goa

  • Environmental farce (editorial)

    Given how environmental degradation and rehabilitation of displaced people have become so important, you would think that governments at the centre and in the states would be serious about dealing with these complex issues, deliberating at length about environment clearances and the rehabilitation packages relating to various projects. Yet, the evidence available suggests that the process is as casual and routine-driven as it can be.

  • Environment protection laws reduced to a travesty of their mandates

    Since 1980, different pieces of legislation have been enacted for environmental conservation. These include the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA), 1980, the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), 1986 and the Biological Diversity Act (BDA), 2002. These have the potential to strengthen the conservation agenda. But they are at best being used to

  • Witness to opposition (Editorial)

    Every chair of the community hall of the Shree Shantadurga temple in South Goa's Quepem taluka was taken. In a few minutes, the public hearing for Shakti bauxite mines was to begin. Then there arose a whisper: the temple had objected to the hearing being held in their premises; it was being called off. It was the second time the hearing was convened and this time, too, the villagers told us, the 30-day notice rule had been violated. The panchayats were informed just two days ago that people should state their objections, if any, to the expansion plan of the bauxite mine-an increase in production from 0.1 million tonnes per year to 1 million tonnes, requiring an increase in mining area from 26 ha to 826 ha-in this forest- paddy region of Goa's hinterland. From the open window I could see a large police battalion gathering. The whisper grew to a shout. Hefty transporters- owners of trucks to carry the bauxite-were shouting the expansion must be cleared. Within minutes, villagers responded. The voices became more strident; both sides were close to a fight. Things settled only when the local MLA insisted with district officials that the hearing be held as scheduled. The hearing began. The company was requested to explain its project-a Powerpoint presentation in English was simultaneously translated into Konkani. A lot of fluff and technical verbiage followed: the geology of the region; the drilling techniques to be used; how bauxite was critical to the country's development; how all clearances had been granted for extension of the mining lease; and how the company would ensure that environmental damage was mitigated at all costs. Listening to the presentation, everything seemed taken care of. The company would stabilize waste dumps by planting trees, backfilling the pits so that rejects were minimized; it would not breach the groundwater table and, to top it all, it would set aside money for environmental management. But this was before the residents- from politicians to villagers to church representatives-got up to speak. They ripped through the environmental impact assessment report prepared by an unknown consultant. They explained the company had got the number of people living in the area, and even the existing land use, completely wrong. The company claimed most of the land it would mine was 'wasteland'. This, people explained, was a lie because the company was eyeing communidade land (common land) they intensively used for agriculture or grazing livestock. Thus, mining here would massively harm them, a fact completely neglected in the environmental impact assessment. As speaker after speaker rose, it became awfully clear that even though the mine was coming up in the backyard of these people, the statutory environmental impact assessment could simply gloss over what would happen to people's land, forests, water or livelihood. I then checked the report. There was not even a map that identified for me habitations or agricultural fields. The report said, rather glibly, there were no surface waterbodies in the vicinity of the project. It then concluded the project's use of water, for spraying on roads and pits, would have no impact on availability for people. The river Sal, some distance away, was discussed for environmental impacts; even the Arabian Sea. But the numerous village streams, which flow from the hills and irrigate the fields found no mention. At the hearing, villagers counted the streams. The area used to be extremely water- scarce. But the government spent substantial money under the national watershed programme to build check dams, plant trees and increase water recharge. As a result there was now enough water for good harvests. Villagers wanted to know why the same government, which had first invested in improving their water security, was now hell-bent on pushing an activity that would destroy their lives. I wasn't surprising when all those gathered agreed unanimously that the mines must not be allowed under any circumstance. The people said the regulatory clearances-the mine closure plan, the mine management plan-were worthless or even fraudulent. The company, already mining in the area on much smaller land, had flouted every existing condition, broken every trust. Life, they said, was already a living hell because of this small mine; what would happen if it expanded? More land taken, more streams destroyed, more rejects piled high for rains to turn into silt? The questions we must ask are: how could the regulatory institutions even consider giving clearances for an expanded mine area without first checking the company's compliance record? Does this not speak of the weak and non-existent capacities of our regulators to manage the mines so that local or regional environmental damage is minimized? Does this not suggest that people who live in these areas are doomed, because once clearance is given there is nobody to check if the stipulated conditions are met? Should I be surprised I was witness to complete opposition by people to the project? What next? My colleague Chandra Bhushan tells me the rest is fairly predictable. The minutes of this public hearing will be sent to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Its expert committee will deliberate, or sit, on the matter for a few months (as it is controversial). Then it will call the company to explain how it will take into account the issues raised by the people. An improved Powerpoint presentation will be made by another consultant; more deliberations will follow; new conditions will be laid down. With these conditions the expanded mine will be cleared, people's opposition be damned. I hope he is wrong. Let's track this one. The future might be different. Writer is Director, Centre for Science and Environment

  • Mangalore SEZ fate to be decided on Thursday

    The state government has said the Centre has been satisfied with the outcome of the public hearing regarding the Mangalore special economic zone (MSEZ) and a final meeting on the crucial environmental management plan (EMP) of the project has been fixed for February 28. "If we get the approval after the Thursday's hearing, work can start on the project,' Karnataka Governor's advisor Krishna Kumar informed Deccan Herald. The meeting will be held by the technical committee of the Expert Committee for Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Project, set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The farmers have been opposing the acquisition of land. They have urged the Government to reject the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report on the project. According to the advisor, a total of 1,750 acre, out of the 2500 acre needed for the SEZ, has already been acquired. "The government has issued notification for 300 acre for acquisition. We are discussing the issue with the farmers,' he added. On the public hearing, Krishna Kumar said the Union ministry has prepared the report on the EIA of the project and circulated it to the gram panchayats. "The GPs wanted the copies in Kannada and we have translated and given these copies. The ministry has concluded that the public hearings were held as per law. The meetings were held in January and February. Now the technical committee will hear the EMP. If we get the approval after the meeting, we can start work on the project. We have come a long way in the last 2-3 months regarding this multi-product SEZ,' Kumar stated. Promoters The Rs 35,000 crore SEZ is being set up by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) as anchor co-promoter using a special purpose vehicle owned by its subsidiary Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL), which will hold a 46 per cent stake. The other equity-holders are the Karnataka Government, Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited. ONGC would hold 26 per cent of the equity in the incorporated company. The State government would hold 23 per cent and the balance 51 per cent would be jointly owned by KCCI and IL&FS. The New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT) is understood to have shown interest to join the SEZ, subject to approval from the Ministry of Shipping, Road and Transport. If NMPT joins, the combined equity of KIADB and NMPT would be 23 per cent. The MRPL has envisaged projects such as an LNG terminal, C2-C3 separation units and aromatic and olefin complexes in the petrochemical component of the SEZ. The SEZ will also include a refinery, a power plant, a gas terminal and a pipeline.

  • Nayachar first glance good'

    Nayachar: The six-member expert committee constituted by the state government to see the technical and economic feasibility of a chemical industry on Nayachar liked what it saw on the first visit to the island today. Led by former ONGC chairman and the Hinduja group vice-chairman in India, Subir Raha, the team (see box) of scientists that included oceanographers and chemical engineers spent over two hours criss-crossing the island. "Prima facie, it looks good. The initial drilling suggests that the soil has load-bearing capacity. However, we will look into more than 10 areas

  • Central panel advises Ministry against Mangalore SEZ Phase II

    The Rs. 35,000-crore Mangalore Special Economic Zone Project appears to have suffered a setback as a Central committee of experts has advised the Ministry of Environment and Forests against going ahead with Phase II of the project, according to information available on the website of the Ministry. At a meeting in New Delhi on February 27 and February 28 to discuss the issue of environment clearance for the project, the Expert Committee on Infrastructure and Miscellaneous Projects said, "The project should be restricted to only Phase I.' Phase I covers 1,800 acres of land which has been acquired by the promoters of the project. Land (2,035 acres) for Phase II is yet to be acquired. The company, Mangalore Special Economic Zone Limited, has been facing opposition from various farmers' organisations and environmentalists as far as Phase II is concerned. The committee has come to the conclusion based on the recommendations of another sub-committee constituted by the Ministry which was entrusted with the responsibility of visiting Mangalore and inspecting the villages notified for the project. The inspection committee was sent to Mangalore after the Ministry took cognisance of the protests and objections against the proposed project. At the New Delhi meeting, the committee said that in view of the protests, the company should confine itself to Phase I of the project. However, the promoters of the project have requested the Ministry to consider the whole project (Phases I and II) saying that the Environmental Impact Assessment has been done for infrastructure on 2,035 acres of land as well. Guarding against any complacency, Lawrence D'Cunha, secretary of the Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, said, "This is only the first step towards victory. We are going to scale up our agitation and not relent until our lands are de-notified.' The samiti represents the four villages of Permude, Thenka Ekkaru, Delantha Bettu and Kuthethoor which have been notified for the second phase of the project.

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