70 ir­ri­ga­tion projects un­der lens; of­fi­cials may face crim­i­nal cases

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Ke­taki Ghoge ke­taki.ghoge@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

CON­TIN­UED ON P15

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