Visakhapatnam: Former Union Secretary EAS Sarma has urged the state government to intervene and stop the pollution control board (APPCB) from going ahead with the proposed public hearings till the COVID restrictions are fully relaxed and the public are in a position to attend the hearings without any virus spread fear.
In a letter addressed to the government on Thursday, he noted that although public hearings are a mandatory requirement for any project to be cleared from the environment point of view under the Environment (Protection) Act. In most cases, the process of public consultation is reduced to a formality, affording little opportunity to the affected communities to understand the environmental and socio-economic implications of the project and express their views/ objections freely.
“The promoters of the projects appoint accredited consulting firms to prepare EIA reports which are expected to form the basis for the public consultation process. Unfortunately, we have come across EIA reports containing false, misleading findings and it is not uncommon to find those reports containing plagiarised portions lifted blindly from other similar reports in the past. The fact that the public hearing process has thus got reduced to a ritual speaks volumes about the inability of APPCB to exercise any effective professional oversight. Nor has APPCB shown its inclination to facilitate a genuine public consultation process,” he remarked.
Dr. Sarma alleged that to suit the interests of the project promoters, the APPCB was taking advantage of the prevailing COVID crisis and rushing into holding public hearings in undue haste when the public could not possibly take part in the same.
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