CHENNAI: Was it actually a factory or an airport? It seems the officials and the ‘experts’ got even the basics wrong with the Aranmula Airport when granting clearance to the controversial project.
It was such silly mistakes apparently caused by ‘copy and paste’ practice, which is so common among agencies conducting environment impact assessments, that has finally cost the `2,000-crore project which the National Green Tribunal (NGT) halted on Wednesday.
In its 221-page judgment, the southern Bench of the NGT, consisting of Justice M Chockalingam and R Nagendran, highlighted several such silly mistakes in the environment impact assessment (EIA) reports, prepared by a private agency, and the Environment Clearance document prepared by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Environment and Forest Ministry.
For instance, the judgment has quoted paragraph 4.4.8 of the EIA report, prepared by Madurai-based Enviro Care. “Elaborate green belt and afforestation will be developed along peripheral and other vacant portions of the factory premises, which will considerably enhance the floristic density in the area.”
The judgment further notes that the proposed airport was mentioned as ‘plant, plant site, plant building, plant operators’ in at least five places in the EIA report doubting whether “The EAC had in its mind a plant or a factory instead of an airport project while considering the EIA.”
The report even suggested the ‘factory’ can reduce the waste by ‘better technology’. The report did not discuss about the passengers travelling to and fro the airport, but only ‘raw materials.’
The judgment quoted the report thus: “The increase in traffic density due to transport of raw materials and products will be low by means of lorries and truckers.”
“No doubt, all the above are out of context and irrelevant and made without any application of mind. Probably, the same might be a verbatim copy of some other report for a factory or plant,” read the judgment.
It was not just the private agency that was rapped by the tribunal for the ‘copy and paste’ practice. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Environment and Forest Ministry, consisting of experts drawn from various fields, was also equally criticised by the tribunal for ‘lack of application of mind.’
In the Environment Clearance document, the EAC, while setting conditions about effluents from the airport, unwittingly mentioned that the effluent shall conform to the standards of the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board. “We find it difficult to see the relationship between the project in question and the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board. In our opinion, the officials responsible for making a blunder as above owe an explanation to their own selves,” the judgment notes.
“We are of the considered view that the ‘conditions’ cited above are typical examples of the (in)famous ‘copy and paste’ from the list of conditions appended to the EC of some other project(s), without any application of mind and ‘non-verification’ of the document before placing the same for signature by the authorised signatory. We direct the MoEF to take steps to restore the sanctity of important documents such as the EC,” the tribunal noted.