Expert Panel’s Go-Ahead To Thermal Plant In Naupada Swamp Is An Outrage

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) expresses shock and outrage at the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) to rescind the stop-work order issued by the MOEF in respect of the East Coast Energy Pvt Ltd (ECEPL) at Kakarapalli in Santhabommali mandal of Srikakulam district. It may be recalled that following police firing in the area on February 28 this year resulting in the death of two farmers, the MOEF had issued a directive suspending ongoing work of the ECEPL’s 2,640 MW thermal plant in the Naupada wetland and referred the matter to the EAC.

The EAC’s recommendation is brazen injustice. The EAC’s minutes do not say a word about the precious wetland that this project is sought to be constructed upon. This is a fact that the EAC’s own sub-group had stated in November 2008 when it had suggested that the project must not come up in the area. We recall MOEF Minister Jairam Ramesh’s statement in Parliament following the police firing that the ECEPL project is indeed located in a wetland. The government has the Constitutional responsibility to protect and nourish wetlands. The EAC recommendation mocks at this mandate.

The local people as well as several expert committees have been making the point since several years that the plant is being constructed on a precious wetland in utter disregard of all environmental norms. The EAC has totally bypassed this issue. It has not bothered to consider how an industry can come up in a wetland in open contempt of laws. The EAC has mocked at environmental regulations by choosing to turn a blind eye to this fundamental fact. It has instead gone ahead and accepted the falsified reports and arguments of the project proponent as well as those of State govt. officials who are in open collusion with the ECEPL. This is patent illegality. There has been no attempt to consult with the local community and take on board the many valid concerns raised by the fisher-folk, farmers and occupational classes in the area.

Over the past three years, HRF and several civil society organisations have been speaking out against the falsification of information and irregularities committed by the ECEPL. We had pointed out how the ECEPL had gone ahead and vandalised the precious ecosystem in the area even before obtaining statutory clearances. This was done in utter defiance of the law and was possible because of active collusion by government officials. The MOEF has failed to act despite violations of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 staring it in the face. The MOEF has also chosen to ignore the January 28, 2011 directive by the Supreme Court that such ecologically significant ‘commons’ must not be diverted for industry.

We recall that right from the start, both State officials as well as the project proponents withheld vital ecological information, falsified the ecological significance of the wetland, concealed sensitive details, fabricated data and destroyed evidence. We have been saying all along that the project location conflicts with both livelihood and conservation objectives. However, the govt insisted on facilitating the project on this precious wetland thereby leading to tragic loss of two lives in police firing.

HRF demands that the MOEF desist from allowing ECEPL to restart work at the site. To accept the EAC recommendation would be tantamount to jettisoning its Constitutional obligations. We also demand that all clearances given to the ECEPL so far be scrapped and punitive measures initiated against those who have colluded with the project proponent and violated statutory norms including personnel in the Revenue dept. and the APIIC. The entire land handed over to ECEPL must be resumed by the government and the Naupada wetland system must be declared a conservation reserve.

VS Krishna
(HRF State general secretary)

KV Jagannadha Rao
(HRF State secretary)


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