Environmental impact assessment is a ‘joke’: Jairam Ramesh

March 19th, 2011 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, March 19 (IANS) Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh Saturday termed as a ‘joke’ the current system of environmental impact assessment of proposed industrial projects.

The ministry will soon introduce a system to get a third party to conduct environmental assessments for projects in ecologically sensitive areas like wetlands or projects that involve multiple sectors, he said.

“Frankly speaking, environmental impact assessment reports prepared for projects are bit of a joke. Under the system we have today, the person who is putting up the project prepares the report. Even reputed government institutions do cut and paste jobs,” he said.

Jairam Ramesh told reporters that the ministry recently introduced accredited system of consultants. It has accredited 200 consultants and is blacklisting those furnishing false reports. Last week, three consultants were blacklisted for producing fraudulent environmental impact assessment reports.

The minister underlined the need to look at the carrying capacity of coastline and doing a cumulative environmental assessment while giving clearance for projects along the coast.

Jairam Ramesh said the satellite mapping of coastline has been completed for Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Orissa and it will be completed for Andhra Pradesh in a couple of months. “We have identified areas which are eroding. We have to be careful not to allow projects in those areas which are facing severe erosion.”

On the two controversial thermal power plants in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh coming up in wetlands, he said they were issued notices under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act and proceedings were continuing.

“We had asked for some information and that information is being provided. All I can say is that if a law has been violated, there is no question of condoning or regularising that violation.”

He admitted that police firing on the protesters at both the project sites moved him to take drastic action, but claimed that notices were also issued in the past.

Two people were killed in the police firing on protesters at Kakarpalli. In a similar incident in July last year at Sompeta, two protesters were killed.

The minister said it was not possible for him to re-open every case and see if the law was violated.

He said for ministry had now started grappling with wetland issue. For the first time, it has formulated rules to protect wetlands.

“We have done satellite mapping of all our wetlands. We have wetland atlases for all states and we are going to release by the end of this month,” he said.

According to the minister, scientific approach to the management of wetlands was not followed because in the revenue records wetland is classified as wasteland.

Stating that water bodies across the country are under severe threat, the minister predicted a big conflict between construction lobby and the need to protect water bodies and wetlands.

Jairam Ramesh welcomed the Supreme Court verdict of Friday in Nirma cement factory case. The apex court has asked the ministry to set up a panel to redo the environmental appraisal.

He said the factory was coming up in a wetland in Gujarat and the ministry had issued orders to stop the work. According to him, the ministry had cleared the project some years ago on the grounds that the state government said it is a wasteland.

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