Around 4,500 people of 28 villages boycotted Environment Public Hearing following breach of promise by Government officials
The Bhavnagar District Collector who chaired the Environment Public Hearing(EPH) for the 6,000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi to be set up by the ‘Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’ and Mr A V Shah, the regional officer of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) made vital procedural lapses during the hearing.
But when villagers wearing black bands to protest the EPH being held with incomplete 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.
They did not allow the villagers to make representation about procedural issues of Environment Public Hearing and instead continued the proceedings with incomplete Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by unaccredited consultants, as a result rendering the EPH illegal violating the environment rules and the Constitution of India.
Mr A V Shah, Regional Office of GPCB had promised two activists Rohit Prajapati and Swati Desai just before the proceedings were to start on March 5 that Mr. Shaktisinh Gohil, Sarpanch of Jasapara will be allowed and representations about procedural lapses can be made by villagers. But when Mr. Shaktisinh Gohil, the Sarpanch of Jaspara village rose to make procedural points about the lapses in the EPH, he was prevented from doing so. Mr Shaktisinh Gohil was highlighting four major lapses:
1. The EIA Report for NPCIL has been prepared by Engineers India Limited. According to EIL’s own admission it does not have the requisite Ministry of Environment and Forest accreditation to undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment. The EIA Report is therefore illegal. *(See note below)
2. The EIL report was incomplete and the EPH was being held on the basis of incomplete EIL 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 EIL report, which was not furnished during the illegal EPH.
4. Only limited villages will be allowed to make oral representation.
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 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 EPH’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..
The villagers are now contemplating legal action against the authorities for organizing the EPH even when several lapses were pointed out well in advance as well as during the EPH proceedings.
* (It seems that EIL later has received a purported letter allowing them to do an EIA, however 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).
Procedural issues in writing were given by following Sarpanches of 10 villages.
- Shaktisinh Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Jaspara, Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Samuben Dabhi, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Mithi Virdi, Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Lagdirsinh Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Paniyali, Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Pruthvirajsinh Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Khadarpar, Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Vilasba Dharmendrasinh Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Mandva Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Bhagvatsinh Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Sosiya, Tal. Talaja, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Ramubha Gohil, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Navagam (Nana), Tal. Ghogha, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Liliben Zinabhai, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Goriyali, Tal. Ghogha, Dist. Bhavnagar
- Gobarbhai Solanki, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Rampar (Garibpura), Dist. Bhavnagar
- Dakshaben Makwana, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Bharapara, Dist. Bhavnagar
Krishnakant Rohit Prajapati Swati Desai
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti
Gujarat Lok Samiti
Paniyali village, Dist. Bhavnagar