Press Release:21.06.14: RAMPANT ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS OF MAHARASHTRA WATER RESOURCE DEPARTMENT

Press Release:                                          ___________                                                                21.06.14

RAMPANT ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS OF MAHARASHTRA WATER RESOURCE DEPARTMENT: STATE FOREST AND ENVIRONMENT DEPT AND CENTRAL MOEF NEED TO TAKE URGENT ACTION

A shocking expose by the CAG Report on Management of Irrigation Projects in Maharashtra, 2014, highlights the repeated and rampant Environmental Violations in Maharashtra which have led to huge impacts, environmental issues, stoppage of work, wastage of funds and violations of multiple laws.

CAG states that as many as 249 projects in Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) alone started work without receiving the legally required Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests or the State Environment Department. There are large number of projects also from Konkan IDC, Tapi IDC, Godavari Marathawada IDC and Maharashtra Krishna Valley Dev Corporation. In test cases, an expenditure of Rs 376.96 crore was incurred up to March 2013 without obtaining EC by VIDC alone. In addition, work was started in 89 projects and Rs. 7,129.76 crore were spent without Forest Clearance, in violations of Forest Conservation Act by all IDCs. Issues due to this led to an additional expense of nearly Rs. 2000 Crores. Some of the important CAG findings:

  • There was no mechanism in the WRD to monitor compliance of environmental clearance conditions. However, the responsibility of monitoring compliance also falls with the State and Central Environment Departments and Ministries and the Pollution Control Board. They too have violated the laws by not taking any action against the WRD and are to blame for the terrible state of affairs. Following indicates that some of these agencies refused to take action even when SANDRP and other organisations pointed out the violations in the past.
  • Some examples of projects without Environmental clearance are: Surya, Virdi, Nardawe, Kondane: Konkan IDC, Janai Shirsai LIS and Chaskaman extension by MKVDC (Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation), Katepurna barrage, Lower Dnyanganga, Januna, Pangrabandhi, Warajahangir, Sukli and  Lower Wardha Major Project by VIDC, Kurha Vadoa project by Tapi IDC and Vishnupuri Project Phase II by Godavari Marathawada IDC which includes 13 barrages on the Godavari.

After the CAG report, the Environment Department, GOM has issued notices to 38 projects without EC. Director, Environment Department told SANDRP that Forest Department may issue a separate notice to projects violating the FC Act.

Violations of Forest Conservation Act (1980). Some of the important CAG findings:

  • 188 projects valuing Rs 46,652.44 crore under the jurisdiction of five IDCs remained incomplete (June 2013) because of pending forest clearances by GoI and GoM. 18 projects were not granted forest clearance due to violation of Forest Act.
  • 139 projects from above mentioned 188 projects needed 19,489 hectares of forest land.
  • An expenditure of Rs 7,129.76 crore was incurred on 89 projects out of these pending clearances under the Forest Act in violation of Forest Conservation Act (1980). For 61 projects and 7636 ha land, no NPV (Net Present Value, required to be deposited for use of forest land) was deposited.
  • In 19 out of 89 projects, commencement of work without forest clearances necessitated changes, stoppage of work etc. resulting in blocking of funds to the extent of Rs 1,944.92 crore.

While the CAG report has done a comprehensive assessment of the violations of Environmental Act, Chitale Committee Report, also brought out around the same time misses many of these projects and violations. However, the Chitale Report also recommends strict action to be taken against Executive Engineers for starting working without clearances.

SANDRP had tried to bring several such violations from bigger projects to the notice of both Govt of Maharashtra and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India consistently. However, most shockingly, no action was taken about these violating projects by these bodies. Letter about irregularities in Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project to Mr. A. Rajeev, Principal Secretary Environment Department, GOM in July 2013, as also to the MoEF, has been unanswered till date.

  • Additional HUGE projects which have commenced without EC include the Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme in Solapur, Lower Tapi Project in Dhule, and as many as 9 lift irrigation schemes based on Ujani.
  • SANDRP had sent relevant information on the above projects in form of submissions to MoEF time to time, but NO ACTION WAS TAKEN BY THE MINISTRY.
  • The State Wildlife Board, Maharashtra, under the Chairpersonship of the Chief Minister has cleared violating projects in its last meeting which were under construction and had already violated the Supreme Court Orders as well as the Environment Protection Act 1986. These projects include Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project and Alewadi and Ar Kacheri Nallah Projects in Buldana. Here too, SANDRP had pointed out the violations to the SWB, but it chose to take no action.
  • Additional Environmental and Forest violations are documented by SANDRP in projects including: Balganga, Kalu, Shai, Talamba and Sarambale Dams of KIDC, Upper Godavari Interbasin Transfer and Manjarpada Phase I project and Components of Gosi Khurd in GMIDC.
  • Lift Irrigation Schemes like Shirapur LIS, Sangola LIS, Barshi LIS, Bhima Seena Link Canal, Dahigain LIS and Seena Madha LIS based on Ujani. All information about these has been given by SANDRP in January 2013 to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF which grants Environmental Clearance to these projects. But no action has been taken by MoEF.

This points to the inescapable conclusion that the state forest and environment department and ministry as well as the MoEF, Delhi, are equally responsible for consciously turning a blind eye towards violations by WRD, Maharahstra.

Any action taken  by these agencies following the CAG report is only to save face and is too little too late, as environment and forests are already impacted and huge amounts of public funds are already spent or locked in these projects without even basic impact assessments or appraisals. This shows that the government, politicians and bureaucrats have no respect for environment and forest clearances, appraisals, impact assessments & affected community’s opinion through public consultations. Strict action should be taken against all those ministers, officials, engineers & contractors, who are responsible for sanctioning and starting such work. Action also needs to be taken against agencies which have looked the other way and have failed to take necessary action, along with WRD Maharashtra for violating laws of the land and affecting forests, environment, people, society and economy of the state.

While the responsibility of ruling coalition of Congress and NCP is greater, the opposition alliance of BJP and Shiv Sena is also equally to blame for not raising these important issues which are crucial for the people of Maharashtra.

-Parineeta Dandekar (9860030742) parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, Himanshu Thakkar (09968242798) ht.sandrp@gmail.com

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), https://sandrp.wordpress.com/, http://sandrp.in/

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