Friday, April 20, 2012

Farce called 'EIA Public Hearing' exposed yet again!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Greetings from Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) !

In yet another significant ruling, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has today (20th April 2012) exposed the farce called EIA public hearings.  

The NGT has set aside the Environmental Clearance granted to the 4 MTPA Coal Mining Project of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. (JSPL) and 4 MTPA Coal Washery at Gare IV/6 at Raigarh District, Chhatisgarh.  The major ground of this decision is the "faulty Public Hearing".  The judgment delivered by Justice C.V Ramulu and Prof Dr R. Nagandran held that the entire Public Hearing was a ‘farce’ and makes a ‘mockery’ of the public hearing process’. The Ministry of Environment and Forest in an illegal manner decided that the Public hearing was complete and granted the clearance. The Appeal against the Environmental Clearance was filed by Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Sanghatan  through Harihar Patel and and Jan Chetna through Ramesh Aggarwal.   

Here below, we paste some important excerpts from the Judgment for your kind reference.  In our state, as has been pointed out by many concerned citizens and organisations time and again, most of the EIA public hearings are farcical and are stage managed shows to favour the companies.  This is high time the MoEF learns a lesson from this and reviews all the public hearings and cancel the ones which have been farcical. 

Excerpts from the NGT Judgement dated 20th April 2012:

"......... In the case on hand, after viewing the CD of the public hearing conducted on 5.1.2008, we are surprised to note to our dismay that the same was a “farce”It was a mockery of the public hearing and the procedure required to be followed thereof. All the norms required in conducting a smooth and fair procedure was given a go by.
For conducting Public Hearing, a big pedal was erected, and a dais was created, and in front of the dais some officers were made to sit, for recording the statements made by the participants. The area covering the dais and the place where the officers were sitting was safely cordoned and in front of them about 200 plastic chairs were arranged for the public. Even before the public hearing could start, the affected people raised slogans to stop the public hearing. However, on the intervention of the Additional District Magistrate a few persons came forward and gave their statements saying that no Gram Sabha was conducted and the Gram Panchayats have issued “No Objection Certificates” and such certificates are invalid and cannot be relied upon to say that the people in the village have no objection for acquiring their lands for establishing the project. It is also pointed out that none of the Sarpanches of the affected villages or other public representatives of the local bodies are present in the public hearing. Thereafter, the women from the affected villages who opposed the establishment of the project came in a queue one after the other and simply said that they oppose the project since their lands are being affected and their livelihood is taken away. The names of the persons and other details such as name of the father/husband, village and the extent of land and survey number were not recorded. The mike was not given to them and many of them were directly exposed to the video.

In the meanwhile, it appears the persons raising slogans against each other also pelted stones and that created some commotion which resulted in the intervention of the police and use of force. The participants however, broke all the plastic chairs and left the place. The officers were all sitting quietly even after the people left the place after the police used force. Some media persons and the local people objected for continuing the proceedings after the people left the place. In fact, there was no announcement that the proceedings would be resumed after some time. However, the Additional District Magistrate resumed and continued the proceedings in the presence of few persons. This time only the supporters of the project were paraded one after the other only to say one word “I Support”. The persons who supported the project all appeared to have been brought and prompted by the proponent. It was a mockery of the entire process of public hearing. At the end, the Additional District Magistrate, declared that the public hearing was complete and there was no necessity for the project proponent to answer anything since there was nothing much has been spoken by the persons opposing the project. Further, no summary of the public hearing was prepared in the local language nor it was made known to the public. The ADM abruptly declared that the proceedings are concluded. The way in which the proceedings are conducted is nauseating and no reasonable person would accept that it was conducted fairly and much less properly.

This is not a case where there are a few ignorable procedural lapses in conducing the public hearing.  This is a case of a mockery of public hearing, which is one of the essential parts of the decision making process, in the grant of Environmental Clearance.  this is a classic example of violation of the rules and the principles of natural justice to its brim.  Therefore we consider it appropriate to declare that the public hearing conducted in this case is nullity in the eye of law and therefore is invalid".....

Thanks and regards,


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

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