Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Public hearing for proposed N-plant at Mithi Virdi held amidst protest by local villagers, activists

Farmers protest against the public hearing for Mithi Virdi N-plant









By Our Representative
In a statement, the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has said that the illegal public hearing was held on March 5, 2013 at 10-30 a.m. at Navagam (Nana) for the proposed Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant “in violation of Environmental Laws and the Constitution of India.” It added, “Around 4,500 people of 28 villages boycotted the environmental public hearing following, breach of promise by government officials.” The statement has also been signed by veteran Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya of the Gujarat Lok Samiti, and local social activist Bharatbhai Jambucha from Paniyali village, Bhavnagar district.
The statement alleged that the Bhavnagar district collector, who chaired the hearing for the 6,000 MW nuclear power plant, to be set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), and A V Shah, regional officer of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), made “vital procedural lapses” during the hearing. “When villagers wearing black bands to protest the hearing being held with incomplete Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report entered the venue, they were first prevented, with officials demanding that the black protest ribbons be removed. It is only when the villagers insisted that they were allowed in.”
Interestingly, the statement said, the officials “did not allow” the villagers to make representation about procedural issues of the hearing and instead continued the proceedings with incomplete EIA report prepared by the unaccredited consultants, Engineers India Ltd, as a result “rendering the hearing illegal and in violation of the environment rules and the Constitution of India.”
It further said, Shah, the GPCB official, even promised two activists Rohit Prajapati and Swati Desai just before the proceedings were to start on March 5 that Shaktisinh Gohil, sarpanch of Jasapara would be allowed and representations about procedural lapses can be made by villagers. “But when Gohil rose to make procedural points about the lapses in the EPH, he was prevented from doing so.”
Gohil wished to highlight some major lapses:
1. The EIA report for NPCIL has been prepared by the consultants. According to the consultants’ own admission, the report does not have the requisite ministry of environment and forests accreditation to undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment. The EIA Report is therefore illegal.
2. The consultants’ report is incomplete and the hearing was being held on the basis of incomplete EIA report rendering it illegal as was pointed out earlier to officials repeatedly.
3. There are several instances of incomplete details and TOR (Terms of Reference) in the consultants' report, which was not furnished during the illegal hearing.
4. Only limited villages were be allowed to make oral representation.
Villagers at the public hearing site
5. The Bhavnagar district collector decided not to allow the rest of 128 villages and other environmental experts to make oral representations and instead directed that they make their case only in writing. This is in clear violation of the Delhi High Court order in the case of Samarth Trust and Other v Union of India & Others W.P.(C) 9317 of 2009, where it has opined that “….prima facie, that so far as a public hearing is concerned, its scope is limited and confined to those locally affected persons residing in the close proximity of the project site. However, in our opinion, the Notification does not preclude or prohibit persons not living in the close proximity of the project site from participating in the public hearing – they too are permitted to participate and express their views for or against the project.”
The statement charges, "The authorities without allowing the villagers to raise points on procedural lapses directed the company officials to represent the incomplete EIA report. Around 4,500 villagers of 29 villages as a result walked out of the illegal hearing’s proceedings as they did not want to become party to illegal proceedings. The officials stopped the EIA report presentation halfway asking the villagers to stay back, but they refused on grounds of it being illegal and procedural illegalities."
In this framework, the statement said, “The villagers are now contemplating legal action against the authorities for organizing the hearing even when several lapses were pointed out well in advance as well as during the hearing proceedings.”
Meanwhile, the NGO said, the consultants have managed to receive a purported letter allowing them to do an EIA, but it has "no legal basis". “Since the EIA was prepared before the letter was received, the EIA would still be invalid, especially because no such letter was published in the EIA report”.
The procedural issues in writing were also handed over to the authorities by the sarpanches of 10 villages from Bhavnagar district –  Shaktisinh Gohil of Jasapara,  Amuben Dabhi of Mithi Virdi, Lagdirsinh Gohil of Paniyali, Pruthvirajsinh Gohil of Khadarpar, Vilasba Dharmendrasinh Gohil of Mandva, Bhagvatsinh Gohil, of Sosiya, Ramubha Gohil of Navagam (Nana), Liliben Zinabhai of Goriyali, Gobarbhai Solanki of Rampar (Garibpura), and Dakshaben Makwana of Bharapara.

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