Lessons from Uttarakhand disaster for Selection of River Valley Projects Expert Committee

Select Independent persons with clean track report in transparent way:

Do not select any of the current EAC members

Over 50 individuals and organisations from 15 states all over India have written a letter to the minister and secretary in Union Ministry of Environment and forests about their concerns when the MoEF selects members of the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley Projects. The signatories include eminent persons like Prashant Bhushan, Akhil Gogoi, Ramaswamy Iyer, EAS Sarma, Vandana Shiva, Prof M K Prasad and Bittu Sehgal. At least eight organisations/ persons from the disaster affected states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have endorsed the letter. The letter makes specific suggestions for the criteria of selection and has requested that none of the members of the outgoing EAC be selected, considering the track record of the outgoing EAC. The letter is self explanatory.

It is this  EAC that considers all the dams and hydropower projects for environment clearance at initial (Terms of Reference of Environment Impact Assessment) and final (Environment Clearance) stage as also the adequacy of the EIAs, public consultation process and cumulative impact assessments. Selection of right kind of persons for chair and members of this committee is very important as past members and their conduct left a lot to be desired. Right selection of members of EAC can also go a long way in avoiding increased impact of the disasters like the one Uttarakhand is currently experiencing.

 June 29, 2013

To

1. Union Minister of State (IC) of Environment and Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex,

Lodhi Road, New Delhi11003

2. Secretary,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex,

Lodhi Road, New Delhi11003

Respected Minister and Secretary,

Sub: Reconstitution of Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects

We understand that the term of the current Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects has come to an end and the ministry is in the process of reconstituting the EAC. In this context, we would like to suggest that the ministry must follow some basic criteria while selecting the chair and members for the new committee. Firstly, the ministry must ensure that all the members of the new committee have credible track record on environmental and related social issues related to the River Valley Projects. This cannot be said to be the case of some members of the outgoing committee. In addition to sociologists, ecologists, hydrologists, the committee needs to have representation from tribal groups, members with proven work on services of the river as against hydrology, experts in climatology and disaster management.  Secondly, all the members of the new committee must have a track record of unimpeachable integrity and professional independence, of taking position independent of government and developers. Thirdly, there should be no issues of conflict of interest for any of the members or their affiliated organisations with respect to the projects and sector they are dealing with.

The members of the EAC should be accountable for their actions. There should be a code of conduct for EAC members, and they should give an undertaking to the MoEF that they will adhere to it. The Code should include items such as a requirement for the members to read the EIA Reports and send it written comments before each meeting on what they consider are the significant issues, declaring conflict of interests, not taking on consultancy, etc.

In this regard, we would urge you not to select any of the members of the current EAC. This is because, firstly, the current EAC has had almost zero rejection rate for the projects they considered, as can be seen from the detailed analysis done by SANDRP (see: http://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf and http://sandrp.in/env_governance/EAC_meetings_Decisions_All_India_Apr_2007_to_Dec_2012.pdf) for the six year period ending in Dec 2012, during part of which many of the current EAC were members.

Secondly, the committee has been at best inconsistent in applying:

  • basic parameters of the adequacy of EIA,
  • the adequacy of EMP,
  • need for cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity,
  • adequacy of public consultation processes,
  • track record of the developers & EIA consultants,
  • adequacy of considering climate change issues,
  • adequacy of consideration of impact of the project on the disaster vulnerability of the area &
  • Most importantly, adequate application of mind to all these issues.

The committee has been sanctioning projects that have been rejected by other government bodies, without providing any reasonable case for rejecting such recommendations. This has in fact resulted in many of the projects that the EAC has cleared, but have remained stranded because of legal, regulatory interventions and people’s opposition. One of the direct consequences of what the EAC has done can seen in the hugely increased proportions of disaster that Uttarakhand is now facing.  It was shocking to see the committee recommending final environmental clearance for the 108 MW Jelam Tamak hydropower project in one of the worst hit Chamoli district in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand. This was in spite of at least two government appointed studies recommending that the project should not be cleared, including the Wildlife Institute of India and also the Inter Ministerial Group headed by B K Chaturvedi and SANDRP & Matu jan sangathan writing to the EAC about this and also raising various concerns about the project.  Media articles have also said that the current EAC members should be sacked, see: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NorthIndiaRainFury2013/Can-we-now-please-sack-these-experts/Article1-1081246.aspx.

MEF should realise that it can discharge its Constitutional obligation under Article 48A to conserve the ecology and ensure the sustainability of development only if the processes under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 are fully complied with. In this, the selection of the Chairman and the members of the EACs assume central importance.

We urge you in fact to set in place a transparent process of selection of EAC chair and members.

We hope you will take this into consideration.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,

Endorsed by:

Himanshu Thakkar & Parineeta Dandekar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, http://sandrp.in/, ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798

Prashant Bhushan, Senior Supreme Court Lawyer, New Delhi prashantbhush@gmail.com

Akhil Gogoi, General Secretary, KMSS, Assam, secretarykmss@gmail.com

Ramaswamy Iyer, former secretary, Govt of India, Delhi, ramaswamy.iyer@gmail.com

E A S Sarma, Former Union Power Secretary, Visakhapattnam, eassarma@gmail.com

Prof. M.K.Prasad, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, Cochin, Kerala, prasadmkprasad@gmail.com

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, Delhi, vandana@vandanashiva.com

Bittu Sehgal, Sanctuary Asia, Mumbai, bittusahgal@gmail.com

Vimalbhai, Convenor, Matu Jansangthan, Uttarakhand, bhaivimal@gmail.com

10. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former professor, IIM Bangalore, Dt Tehri, Uttarakhand bharatjj@gmail.com

Malika Virdi, Himal Prakriti Munsiari, Uttarakhand malika.virdi@gmail.com

E Theophilus, Himal Prakriti Munsiari, Uttarakhand etheophilus@gmail.com

K. Ramnarayan, Save the Rivers Campaign, Uttarakhand ramnarayan.k@gmail.com  

Tarun Joshi,Vanpanchayat Sangarsh Morcha, Uttrakhand, vanpanchayat@rediffmail.com

Manshi Asher & Rahul Saxena, Himdhara, Himachal Pradesh manshi.asher@gmail.com

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune, manthan.shripad@gmail.com

Samir Mehta, International Rivers and River Basin friends, Mumbai samir@internationalrivers.org

Madhu Bhaduri, Ambassador of India (Retd) and social worker, Delhi madhu.bhaduri@gmail.com

Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur, Kerala. rrckerala@gmail.com

20. Prof. Vijay Paranjpye, Chairman, Gomukh, Pune, Maharashtra paranjpye@yahoo.co.uk

Rahul Banerjee, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra, Indore, MP, rahul.indauri@gmail.com

Subhadra Khaperde, Aarohi Trust, Khargone, MP, subhadra.khaperde@gmail.com

Shankar Tadwal, Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Alirajpur, MP shankarkmcs@rediffmail.com

Manoj Mishra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, manojmisra@peaceinst.org

Ravindranath, River Basin Friends, Dist Dhemaji, Assam, rvcassam@gmail.com

Ranjan Panda, Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, Bhubaneshwar, ranjanpanda@gmail.com

Sharad Lele, Centre for Environment & Development, ATREE, Bangalore sharad.lele@gmail.com

KJ Joy, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management, Pune, joykjjoy2@gmail.com

Seema Kulkarni, SOPPECOM, Pune, seemakulkarni2@gmail.com

30. Meher Engineer, Scientist, Kolkata, W Bengal, mengineer2003@gmail.com

Bela Bhatia, Honorary Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai,  writetobela@gmail.com

Dr Nilesh Heda, Samvardhan, Washim Vidarbha, nilheda@gmail.com

Samantha Agarwal, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Raipur, samsnomadicheart@gmail.com

Radha Gopalan, Environmental Scientist & Academician, Rishi Valley, Andhra Pradesh, radha.gopalan@gmail.com

Nitya Jacob, Delhi, nityajacob@yahoo.com

Aruna Rodrigues, Mhow, M.P., arunarod@gmail.com

Michael Mazgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat mozdam@gmail.com

Prof S. Janakarajan, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, janak@mids.ac.in

Prof Rohan Dsouza, JNU, Delhi, rohanxdsouza@gmail.com

40. Chaoba Takhenchangbam, North East Dialogue Forum, Manipur, chaosarma@gmail.com

Swathi Seshadri, EQUATIONS, Bangalore, campaigns@equitabletourism.org

Prasad Chacko, Behavioural Science Centre, St Xavier’s College Campus, Ahmedabad, sxnfesad1@vsnl.net

Janak Daftari, Jal Biradari, Mumbai, daffy@jalsangrah.org

Sudhir Pattnaik, Writer and Activist, Bhubaneswar, sudhir.pattnaik@gmail.com

Joe Athialy, Bank Information Center Trust, New Delhi joeathialy@gmail.com

Pushp Jain, EIA Resource and Response Centre, New Delhi, ercdelhi@gmail.com

Pijush Kanti Das,  Committee on peoples and Environment, Silchar, Assam, email-savebarak@gmail.com

Dr Parthankar Choudhury, Society of Activists & Volunteers for Env., Silchar-Assam, parthankar@rediffmail.com

Michael Mazgaonkar, Gujarat, mozdam@gmail.com

50. Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, JNU, Delhi, amit.bhaduri@gmail.com

Subijoy Dutta, Rivers of the World Foundation, Crofton, MD 21114 USA, Subijoy@verizon.net

Tarun Nair, Gharial Conservation Alliance, Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, tarunnair@yahoo.co.uk

Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre, Delhi, qadeeroy@gmail.com

 

Copy to: 1. Jt Secretary, MEF

2. Director-IA, RVP, MEF

2 Comments on “Lessons from Uttarakhand disaster for Selection of River Valley Projects Expert Committee

  1. really srinvas garu rivers are flowing in their own path at least once in century. But people occupying the river every year from the centuries. Thats what happend in Uttakhan now and in Kurnool 3 years back. Yes we need expert committee to reserve (to leave) Rivre’s path.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Uttarakhand Reading List | Signals in the Fog

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