Sunday, February 12, 2012

After NGT remarks, WIO demands public audit of EIA Reports!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Now the National Green Tribunal confirms what groups like Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) have been complaining.  The Tribunal has pointed out that 'consultants' are including "cooked data" in the key EIA reports which determine green clearances for industrial projects.  For details, please see the news pasted below.

In many of our press releases and discussions we have been pointing out that the EIA reports have been cooked ones.  Most of these reports even undervalue the damage that will be caused to environment by the industry.  The POSCO case is the most recent example where the EIA report did not take into consideration the total water requirement of its production process.  We had urged upon the Govt. of Odisha and MoEF, GoI to ask for a updated EIA report that incorporates this and conduct a fresh publish hearing.  For obvious reasons, that all of us know, the Govt. did not pay heed to this.  We bet, pick up any EIA report of any industry that has been set up in the state and you will find several anomalies, forged and cooked data made out by these 'consultants' to see that the projects are cleared. 

Now that the NGT has pointed at this malpractice, we urge upon the Govt. to revisit EIA reports of industrial projects, at least of some major projects like POSCO.  Let there be an open public audit of the EIAs of such projects with independent people being given charge of screening those and experts from different fields along people from the locality giving their views.  Let the government have the guts to cancel the EIA reports if they are found 'forged', 'cooked' and 'insufficient' and call for fresh EIA reports and public hearings.

We are sure the Govt. will listen to this if it really believes in its 'Save Nature' slogans.  Or else, let it admit that its 'environment conservation and protection' slogans and actions are just crocodile tears and let it dismantle the Department of Forests and Environment.  

Thanks and regards,


Environment reports have ‘cooked data,' says tribunal

The National Green Tribunal is the latest to point out that consultants are including “cooked data” in the key environment impact assessment (EIA) reports which determine green clearances for industrial projects. The Tribunal has told the government to come up with a mechanism to ensure authentic data.

The Tribunal made its comments last week while suspending the environment clearance given to Scania Steel and Power for the expansion of its sponge iron and captive power plant project in Chhattisgarh, on the grounds that no public hearing had been held.

It pointed out that in what seemed like a misguided effort to make the project look clean, the EIA report actually recorded pollution indicators well below possible levels. For example, the levels of sulphur dioxide reported in the area range between 5.1 and 5.3 micrograms per cubic metre, conveniently ignoring the fact that the minimum detectable limit of the pollutant itself was only 6 micrograms per cubic metre. The levels of the heavy metal mercury in the air had not even been estimated.

“The reflected data casts a doubt on the reliability of the ambient air quality data produced in the EIA report,” the Tribunal said. “It appears that the EIA Consultant has taken it in a very casual way.”

With regard to water quality data, the levels of fluoride are almost identical for both ground and surface water, which the Tribunal found “unrealistic.” The EIA consultant also collected its baseline data four months before the government even issued terms of reference, defeating the entire purpose of the exercise.

“In view of the infirmities noticed, we direct Ministry of Environment and Forests to develop appropriate mechanism, to check the authenticity of environmental data reported in the EIA/EMP report which would facilitate a more realistic environmental appraisal of project,” said the Tribunal. “Steps should also be taken for black listing Consultants found to have reported ‘cooked data' or ‘wrong data' and for producing sub-standard EIA/EMP report.”

This is not the first time consultants have been caught doctoring data. Last year, a Jodhpur-based consultant used a “cut and paste” technique to input identical air quality data for five very different projects. It was blacklisted for a three-year period.

Bottom line

The wider issue remains that since it is project promoters who pay for the preparation of the EIA report, consultants often manipulate data to suit their paymasters. Last year, Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia had also called for a change in the system. “If you leave report preparation to the project proponent, I am sorry to say, the person who pays will get the answers he asks for,” he said. While the Ministry had been considering a proposal to have government-appointed panels prepare EIA reports for key projects, no decision has been taken yet.

Ranjan K Panda

Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!

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Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.  

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