Economy

Green Tribunal wants Environment Ministry to strengthen public hearing process

R. Balaji Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has to strengthen the public hearing process and make it “meaningful” in the grant of environmental clearances for projects, according to the National Green Tribunal.

The Tribunal, constituted under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, for handling environmental cases, was critical of the way public hearings are conducted. It has suggested a set of measures for the Ministry to include in the rules on conducting public hearings, and compiling draft and final environmental impact assessment reports. The Expert Appraisal Committee can also refine the procedures.

The Tribunal's Principal Bench made these general observations while disposing the appeal against the grant of clearance for a power project in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu. The order was passed on May 30, 2012, on Appeal No. 12/2011 on Chettinad Power Corporation.

Critical View

The Tribunal said there appears to be no improvement in following the procedures in public hearings though a number of judgments by the Supreme Court and High Courts deal with the principles to be followed. Video recordings of public hearings in a majority of the cases indicate it was a “mockery.” Despite elaborate arrangements, the result is “worthless except mere recording of ‘support' or ‘oppose'.” Environmental and ecological views are not represented, groups clash and the object is to disrupt the proceedings while the authority is to “somehow to proceed with the hearing and complete the ritual.”

Suggestions

The Tribunal said the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report by the project proponent must be presented item wise, leaders of local bodies, Legislators and Members of Parliament may be requested to present their views and submit them in writing.

The public hearing should be restricted only to issues relating to the draft report and nobody should be allowed to enter the venue with party flags or shout slogans.

The persons speaking at the event should identify themselves and the subject of their representation and be called to the dais one by one. Technical or scientific presentation by experts should be in front of the public and given in writing.

The authority conducting the event may be asked to take part in each and every minute procedure, the views for and against the project may be dealt with subject wise briefly by the project proponent and the Authority should compile the minutes in line with the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and make it known to the public.

The Expert Approval Committee should give detailed reasons in writing for accepting or otherwise of each issue brought up at the public hearing.

The final version should be placed on the Web site of the Ministry and also communicated to the Authorities conducting the public hearing.

Published on June 10, 2012

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