En­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment not needed for wind projects: panel

Mint ST - - POLICY - BY MAYANK AG­GAR­WAL mayank.a@livemint.com NEW DELHI

The gov­ern­ment’s ex­pert for­est panel has given its ap­proval to a 40 megawatt (MW) wind power project in Andhra Pradesh—on the ba­sis of a sin­gle con­tested study on mi­gra­tory birds—say­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment (EIA) is un­nec­es­sary for wind projects. Its rec­om­men­da­tion comes de­spite the wildlife divi­sion of the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry ad­vo­cat­ing the need for an EIA.

This is not the first time the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry’s for­est ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee (FAC) has cleared a wind power project de­spite ob­jec­tions from other ex­pert mem­bers. In June, the panel ap­proved clear­ance of 297.38 hectares of for­est land in Kutch district of Gu­jarat for a 400MW wind power project, over­rid­ing ob­jec­tions that it posed a risk to mi­gra­tory birds that fre­quent the area in winters, as well as bats.

The present project was dis­cussed in a meet­ing of the FAC on 17 Au­gust, whose min­utes have been re­viewed by Mint. The project in­volves di­ver­sion of 55.73 hectares of for­est land in Ra­m­a­giri area of AP for es­tab­lish­ing a 40MW wind power project.it had been re­ferred to the FAC in Fe­bru- ary 2012, but had failed to get the ap­proval de­spite dis­cus­sions by the for­est panel in April 2012, July 2016, De­cem­ber 2016, and in March 2017.

In 2012, the FAC had sought a re­port as­sess­ing the im­pact of the pro­posed project on wildlife, es­pe­cially birds and rap­tors and rec­om­men­da­tions to min­i­mize and pre­vent the im­pact. But no re­port was con­ducted by ex­pert bod­ies sug­gested by FAC in four years.

Fi­nally in De­cem­ber 2016, the FAC con­sid­ered a study con­ducted on the sub­ject by Kr­ish­nade­varaya Univer­sity (Anan­tha­pur area of Andhra Pradesh) and asked one of the mem­bers of the then ad­vi­sory panel, Dr. Deepak Apte, to ex­am­ine it. Ac­cord­ing to the min­utes, Apte found a se­ries of short­com­ings in the study.

For in­stance, the study, done in early mon­soon season, claimed that the project area “does not come in the path of mi­gra­tory birds” but Apte ques­tioned, “How was this in­ferred with­out the study be­ing con­ducted in win­ter and post-win­ter, which is when the mi­gra­tory birds ar­rive and de­part from the In­dian re­gion?” He also high­lighted the study men­tions species such as “com­mon toad and cricket frog that are not found in In­dia”. In a March meet­ing, the FAC asked the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry’s wildlife divi­sion to ex­am­ine the study and Apte’s com­ments, and rec­om­mend ad­e­quate mit­iga­tive mea­sures that would be bind­ing on the project’s pro­po­nent.

The wildlife divi­sion, in­stead of rec­om­mend­ing mit­iga­tive mea­sures, said that con­sid­er­ing Apte’s com­ments, “we may sug­gest that EIA of pro­posed wind tur­bines be con­ducted by SACON (Salim Ali Cen­tre for Or­nithol­ogy and Nat­u­ral His­tory)”.

But FAC, in its lat­est meet­ing, dis­agreed with the wildlife divi­sion’s stand. It noted they feel the EIA “as rec­om­mended by wildlife divi­sion is not re­quired for wind en­ergy projects which pro­duces green en­ergy”.

In­stead, the FAC rec­om­mended the pro­posal for in-prin­ci­ple ap­proval.

The panel also said that “mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures rec­om­mended by univer­sity of Kr­ish­nade­varaya (in) its re­port shall be com­plied with and mon­i­tored reg­u­larly”. This is de­spite Apte find­ing faults.

“The user agency shall also take all mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures to avoid ca­su­al­ties of rap­tors/ birds/bats due to net­work of overhead power ca­bles in con­sul­ta­tion with in­sti­tu­tion hav­ing ex­per­tise on the sub­ject and as rec­om­mended by the State for­est and wildlife depart­ment from time to time,” the FAC di­rected.

REUTERS

The gov­ern­ment’s ex­pert for­est panel also gave its ap­proval to a 40MW wind power project in Andhra Pradesh.

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