One of the pictures posted by the official X handle of AIIMS Madurai
One of the pictures posted by the official X handle of AIIMS Madurai(Photo | X)

AIIMS works in Madurai started off sans green clearance

According to the pictures, the works under way included soil filling for quality control lab, project office for L&T and excavation of earth for the store shed and laying of foundation for weighing bridge.

CHENNAI: Construction work has commenced at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) site in Madurai nearly five years after foundation stone was laid by the PM in 2019, but the work has allegedly been undertaken in violation of environmental laws without statutory clearances, sources said.

While the work started at the site with a low-key ‘vaastu pooja’ in March this year, the project is yet to obtain the mandatory environmental clearance (EC) from Tamil Nadu State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and Consent to Establish (CTE) from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. Without these approvals, no civil work, except fencing of the site and construction of temporary sheds for guards, can be carried out.

But, as per the pictures posted by the official handle of AIIMS Madurai on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) on April 16, several other works are under way. Men and heavy machinery were seen deployed at the site for constructing multiple structures. According to the pictures, the works under way included soil filling for quality control lab, project office for L&T (which has been awarded the contract for construction), and excavation of earth for the store shed and laying of foundation for weighing bridge.

None of these works, however, can be taken up without the prior environmental clearance as per the EIA Notification, 2006, and the subsequent Office Memorandums (OMs) issued by the union environment ministry from time to time.

The AIIMS Madurai, which was being built under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) scheme, falls under category B1 project for which the EC will be issued by the SEIAA. An application for Terms of Reference (ToR) to prepare EIA study for the project was filed on February 27 and was issued by SEIAA on April 17. After the acceptance of EIA study, the EC will be issued. But, before completing these processes, construction was started on March 5.

When contacted, AIIMS Madurai’s superintendent engineer Alok Devrani told TNIE, “We just started a few permissible pre-construction works. All major civil works will be undertaken only after obtaining the EC. The construction site is a barren land. There is no forest or tree cover. This is a government project for larger public good. We have not violated any rules.”

AR Rahul Nadh, member-secretary, SEIAA, told TNIE he would send a team to assess the ground situation. “Certain pre-construction works are permitted, but need to verify whether the ongoing construction work falls under that ambit, if not we will advise them accordingly.” Meanwhile, sources said Madurai District Environmental Engineer (DEE) of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has visited the AIIMS Madurai site on Thursday evening and advised the authorities concerned to stop all construction works, except building a temporary room.

“If anymore construction is carried out, a show-cause notice will be issued. This is an important government project. We have asked the AIIMS officials to wait till all the clearances are obtained and not rush with the construction. If not, issuing EC will be further delayed because, under the law, there is no provision for obtaining post-facto clearance,” a senior TNPCB official said.

Later in the evening, AIIMS Madurai put out a tweet, stating that that “all activities currently under way are pre-construction activities conducted in accordance with the mandated protocols”. “The main construction activities will commence once the Environmental Clearance is obtained from the Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN),” it added.

According to an official release from Madurai AIIMS director, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), a leading global construction company, has been awarded the Letter of Acceptance (LoA) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) for the construction of the project on March 4, 2024.

The total project duration is 33 months from the date of commencement.

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