Sunday, 18 December 2011

{DUU-32} NAEE Case 04-04-07

Delhi High Court annoyed with MoEF for non constituting the NEAA

Case:- Vimalbhai Vs. Union of India
Filed on:- 9-12-2005
Issue:-Constitute the National Environment Applet Authority according to High Court order

The Delhi High Court today while hearing the application Vimalbhai vs. Union of India with respect to the Constitution of the National Environmental Appellate Authority directed the Ministry of Environment & Forest to either appoint the Chairman and Vice-Chairman or Present the bill relating to the National Environmental Tribunal at the earliest. The Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dr. M. K. Sharma expressed concern over the fact that social welfare legislation is not being properly implemented and therefore, the whole purpose of enactment of the law as well as formation of the authority gets defeated. The Court stated that it is unfortunate that the Ministry in so many years could not locate even a Single Judge or Chief Justice of the High Court for such an important post.
Counsel for the Petitioner Ritwick Dutta (From LIFE) pointed out there are only three technical members and that to former bureaucrats of which some were former officials of the Ministry of Environment & Forest and therefore, difficult to assume that it could render independent decisions. The Chief Justice remarked that this Tribunal has in fact become a post retirement place for bureaucrats.
The matter is listed for hearing on 16.05.2007.

Development for all, not only for few.
{DUU-31} NEAA order on Loharinag-Pala HEP 7-2-2007

NEAA Ordered:-MOEF monitor the project instead of NTPC
Project Name: Loharinag-Pala Hydroelectric Project (4x150 MW)

River: Bhagirathi
Agency: National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)

Environmental Clearance granted on 8.2.2005

Case: challenging Environment Clearance of Loharinag-Pala HEP

In its order dated 7-2-2007 National Environment Appellate Authority gave some important directions to Ministry of Environment and Forest. After a long better in the NEAA we were able to get some amount of directions although this appeal has been dismissed. It is important that this is very first case which has been heard by NEAA on merits.

You may recall after giving notice by Adv. Prashant Bhushan when project got environment clearance one appeal has been filed by Matu Peoples' Organisation and two headman of affected villages. This appeal has not been heard on the basis of condonation of delay then we (Adv. Sanjay Parikh and Adv. Ritiwik Dutta) challenged this dismissal in Delhi High court. In September 2005 Delhi High court ordered to reconstitute NEAA with full bench and heard the case on merits. On 8-8-06 NEAA has begun the hearing.

Adv. Ritiwik Dutta and Rahul Chowdhary of LIFE argued well in the authority. We as Matu Peoples’ Organisation very thank full to them for working so hard.

Important directions of the order

During the course of hearing of the Appeal, certain important issues closely related to the problems of the affected people were raised by the Learned Counsel for the Appellants. They are

(a) Need for improvement in the quality of Environment Impact Assessment Reports;

(b) Need for service of notice of Public Hearing on the Village level, Local Bodies like Gram Panchayat; and

(c) Need for an affective Multidisciplinary Monitoring Mechanism.

These three suggestions are dealt with and the decisions of the Authority are given below:

12.1 Multidisciplinary Monitoring Mechanism is at present monitoring the progress of various aspects including the R & R package of the Project. The Authority notes that this mechanism is under the control of the Project Proponent. Having examined the various inadequacies brought out during the course of Appeal, the Authority is convinced about the need for an effective Monitoring Mechanism to ensure timely implementation of all suggested environmental safeguards including the R & R package so as to repose the faith of the public in Government’s intentions and commitments to conservation and sustainable Development. Accordingly, the Appellants and the Respondents were asked to file their suggestions on composition of the Monitoring Committee and measures for qualitative improvement of Environment Impact Assessment Report and Environment Management Plan. The Authority has examined the various suggestions received on the aspects and is convinced of the need for reconstitution of Monitoring Committee so as to ensure strict implementation of various general and specific conditions imposed while granting Environment Clearance. Accordingly, this Authority directs (1) Constitution of a Multidisciplinary Monitoring Committee under the control of the Respondent No.1 instead of Project proponent, as given at para (vii) of General Conditions of the Environmental Clearance letter, to implementation of the Project and (2) Inclusion of Ecologists, Environmental scientist, Conservationists and experienced Administrators in that Committee so that the project leads to sustainable development with adequate protection to the Environment.

12.2 The Environment Impact Assessment Report and Environment Management Plan that are mandated for every developmental project of a certain size must be prepared scientifically, in an un-biased manner by Specialized Agencies and with enough autonomy. In order to improve the quality of the EIAs and EMPs the Authority feels that MoEF, GOI should consider appropriate mechanism for Empanelled of Suitable Specialised Agencies for preparation of EIA and EMP with a provision for enabling the project proponents to choose their own agency from out of the list of Agencies approved by MoEF, GOI.

12.3 As regards the much agitated issue of service of notice for Public Hearing the Local Gram Panchayat or any other Local Body, this Authority finds some force in the argument of the learned counsel for the Appellants, though we have not agreed with his contention that failure to service the notice for Public Hearing on the Gram Panchayat should vitiate the entire proceedings resulting in quashing of the Environment Clearance Order issued by the Respondent No. 1. The Authority notes that Schedule IV of Notification dated 10th April 1997 issued by the MoEF, GOI deals with the procedure for conduct of Public Hearing. While the said notification provides for access of the concerned persons to the Executive Summary of the Project at the Office of the Chief Executive Officers of Zila Parishad or Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation or Local Body, there is no such clear provision regarding service of notice for Public Hearing. The Authority is convinced that mere publication of notice in at least two newspapers widely circulated in the region, one of which shall be in local vernacular language is not adequate enough to meet the Principle of Natural Justice for the affected people, in view of the fact that considerable segment of rural population are still illiterate unable to read or write the local vernacular language. Further, the recent notification issued by the Respondent No.1 on 14th September 2006 does not make any provision in this regard. The Authority therefore directs that the notice for the Public Hearing should be exhibited in the office of the concerned Local Bodies of the area affected by the Project. The Respondent No. 1 is requested to take necessary action accordingly.

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