Saturday, January 24, 2015

No green clearance to Dholera SIR?: Gujarat govt says it doesn't have intimation of environmental nod

Proposed Dholera airport for the smart city
By Our Representative
Latest information provided by a top Gujarat government agency suggests that the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR), being planned on around 920 sq km area south of Ahmedabad at one of the 100 modern smart cities the Narendra Modi government wants to develop all over the country, may not have received the crucial green nod for its development. In reply to a right to information (RTI) plea to provide a letter of the copy of environmental clearance to the top state-sponsored project, the DSIR Authority, a special purpose vehicle formed to trigger the project, has said it is “not available and hence cannot be provide”.
The reply by the top state agency comes several weeks after of a report which said that while the project has been “recommended for environmental clearance by the expert appraisal committee of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)”, it has not received coastal regulatory zone (CRZ). The RTI application was filed by a powerful farmers’ organization which has cropped up to protest against a dozen-odd SIRs proposed across Gujarat, Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), in alliance with Bhal Bachao Samiti, a local people’s organization of the Dholera region.
Based on the reply it received, JAAG has wondered why the Government of India has not cared for forwarding the intimation letter for environmental clearance to the state government agency. “Is this another instance of an assault on the decentralized system of governance and the federal nature of the polity? Is this good governance?”, it has JAAG asked in a statement, adding, the DSIR Authority has answered almost in the vein to other three questions which it had asked in the RTI letter.
The questions to which JAAG was told the authority did not have any intimation include were – whether environmental clearance was advertised in any newspaper, and if so, provide a copy of the same; action taken on the objections raised against the project at the environmental public hearing held in Dholera; and copy of letters written to panchayati raj institutions (village, taluka and district panchyats) intimating them of the clearance.
Proposed high-speed rail link for the Dholera smart city
To the question whether the process of getting requisite clearances from coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) and wildlife board had at all been undertaken, with a request to provide copies of letters, studies etc. if the process had begun, the DSIR Authority evasively replied, “The sought information is too voluminous to be provided, but may be perused in the DSIR Authority premises during office hours”.
The DSIR was notified in 2009 as a SIR under the Gujarat Special Investment Region Act. It was the first SIR which was proposed to be developed with the declared objective of providing establishment, operation, regulation and management of large-size investment regions and industrial areas in Gujarat. It was also meant to especially enable their development as global hubs of economic activity, supported by world class infrastructure, premium civic amenities, centers of excellence and proactive policy framework.
Agricultural activities in 22 villages are likely to be adversely affected because of the DSIR, which is part of the 1,483 km long Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) between Delhi and Mumbai. About 40 per cent of the DFC passes through Gujarat. A recent meeting of the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the MoEF decided to recommend the proposed DSIR for environmental clearance. At the same time, the committee laid down 69 “strict conditions” to follow while implementing the project, a report said.

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