The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the AP Pollution Control Board (APPCB) postpone the public hearing slated for 31 October 2017 in respect of the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) expansion project. We have gathered from media reports that a public hearing is to be conducted by the APPCB on VPT’s proposal to expand two oil berths at a cost of Rs 193.31 crores.
It is shocking that the APPCB has neither announced the date of the public hearing nor uploaded the prefeasibility environmental impact assessment report (EIA report) of the said project on its website. It has thus failed to provide sufficient notice to the public at large.The APPCB appears to have given up on its conventional practice of posting the date of public hearing and uploading the relevant EIA report. A public hearing is an important step in the EIA’s consultative process which cannot be undermined in any manner. The exercise would be far more meaningful if the notification is widely circulated as per the Environmental Impact Assessment norms. By not doing so, a large section of society is deprived of valuable information that is a pre-requisite for a meaningful rendering of opinion at the public hearing. In fact, the denial of this information goes against the spirit of our Constitution and the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006. A 30 day prior notice of the public hearing is mandatory according to the EIA regulations and it ought to be explicit so as to enable people from all walks of life to express their views about the project proposal in an informed manner.
The Vizag Port Trust is one of the major contributors to air pollution in Visakhapatnam city. People residing in the neighborhood of VPT have repeatedly expressed grave concern about the pollutants from the Port taking a toll on their health and well-being. We recall that the National Green Tribunal had to step in to address this issue. Beach sand erosion has also become a cause of concern in this region. Many oceanographic studies have proven the link between the presence of ports and beach erosion. Apart from these requiring a studied response, an additional concern is the location of several industries near the VPT. These have given rise to major environmental concerns including the necessity for a cumulative environmental impact assessment. All such concerns ought to be discussed and addressed at a public hearing provided such a hearing is held in a meaningful manner. In this instance, this is clearly not the case.
As the notification has not even been duly posted in the APPCB’s website, we feel that the very purpose of the public hearing would be defeated. We have brought this to the notice of the Chairman, APPCB and the District Collector and requested them to issue a fresh notification so as to facilitate a fair assessment.
We reiterate that the APPCB should postpone the public hearing scheduled for 31 October 2017 and must issue a fresh notification for the same. We also demand that the APPCB should post the mandatory 30 days’ notice of the public hearing on its website and also upload the prefeasibility report in it.
K Sudha UG Srinivasulu
General Secretary, HRF President, HRF
AP State Committee AP State Committee