70 irrigation projects under lens; officials may face criminal cases
The state government may file as many as 70 criminal cases against its irrigation engineers and officials under the Environment Protection Act.
The state’s expert appraisal committee (SEAC), which scrutinises mega construction, irrigation and industrial projects for a green nod, has identified 70 water resources projects where work had started before they received a clearance. This is in violation of the environment impact assessment notifica- tion of 2006 that laid down a procedure for scrutinising and clearing projects. Those guilty of violating it can be prosecuted under EPA.
The violations also show that several projects, which could submerge hundreds of hectares of land and displace thousands of people, were started without conducting any environment impact assess- ment (EIA) study or holding public hearings. A majority of these projects are in Vidarbha, a region that has irrigation backlog and is at the centre of an agrarian crisis.
While these violations were identified by the SEAC between 2014 and 2015, they were compiled recently. As per procedure, the environment department is currently holding hearings for each of these projects. “We have so far held hearing for seven projects and it was found that two of these did not violate the law. We have recommended action against the remaining five projects as per the law,” said Malini Shankar, principal secretary, environment department.
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