Activists hail NEAA Polavaram order, but find verdict inadequate

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New Delhi, Dec 26 (UNI) Environment activists have hailed the National Environment Appellate Authority's (NEAA) order to quash the clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the Polavaram multi-purpose project of Andhra Pradesh, but feel it would have been more heartening if the Authority had done so on the ground of inadequacy of the environment impact assessment.

The NEAA Member JC Kala told UNI that they found fault with the clearance given by the Ministry mainly on the ground that the public hearing was not conducted in the project-affected areas of Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The one, conducted by the Andhra Pradesh Government on October 10 in its own district, was not complete either.

Environment activist Himanshu Thakkar says the action by the NEAA was welcome in view of the fact that it has been lying dormant for the last so many years. He, however, said the Authority, in its decision, should have been more categorical about halting the construction and imposing some penalty on the state auhorities and the Ministry for flouting the norms in extending the clearance.

Mr Thakkar said the Andhra Pradesh Government had gone about constructing the project mainly on technical grounds, and as such it would have been better if the Authority, while quashing the clearance, had categorically barred any construction till the final decision in the matter.

The three-member appellate authority comprising J C Kala, I V Manivannan and Kaushlendra Prasad had passed the order on December 19.

Mr Thakkar also criticised the role of the Central Water Commission (CWC), which has a member on the Environment Impact Assessment Committee of the MoEF, whose clearance is required in cases like the Polavaram project.

He said there were several issues regarding inter-state water management which the CWC should have considered before giving its nod to the project.

The NEEA's decision had come on a petition of an NGO 'Academy for Mountain and Environics' challenging the site clearance order of the MoEF and its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

Mr Ritwick Dutta, an activist with the NGO, welcomed the decision, but was disappointment with the fact that the Authority had dismissed their main plaint based on the faulty environment impact assessment of the project.

''However, there is one hope that if after the fresh public hearing, the state authorities submit that they will change the design and scope of the project, then that would require fresh impact assessment,'' he said.

The Orissa Government was a party to the appeal as the project is going to affect several villages of its Malkangiri district. The state government has also filed a case in the Supreme Court against the project.

Under the Polavaram irrigation project, a barrage would be constructed across the Godavari River, some 15 km north of Rajmundhry in East Godavari district. The barrage would go to 50 feet and raise the water along the river stretch upstream in Godavari and several of its tributaries.

This would lead to submergence of area stretching along the Sabari River, a tributary to Godavari, up to the borders of Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

Orissa and Chhattisgarh governments are worried that the displacement of Tribals would severly affect their life and they would be forced to turn into migrants labourers and slum dwellers.

The situation might lead to alienation of a large number of people from the main stream, resulting in many social and political tensions, reports from the states say.


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