23 March, 2010. CHENNAI An environmental public hearing about the continued dumping and processing of municipal waste in Pallikaranai marshlands was pushed through despite glaring procedural errors, lack of statutory documents such as summary of the EIA, and a lack of opportunity for residents of the area to adequately air their views. Amidst the intimidation of ruling party councillors and political cadre who took over the front rows, the voices of residents was drowned out. “The entire show was a political thanksgiving to the ruling party and not an environmental public hearing,” said K.N. Arun, resident of Thuraipakkam.
All public hearings under the EIA Notification, 2006, must be held only after a summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment report is made publicly available. The format and content of the summary report which is prescribed in Appendix III A of the EIA Notification requires such summaries to contain information regarding a description of the environment, anticipated environmental impacts, environmental monitoring program, additional studies and environmental management plan. The Summary report made available to the public had none of this information, and cannot be considered an executive summary of the EIA. “The summary document is a marketing brochure of the company, and section of the report are actually reproductions from the company’s website www.hydroair.com/solid.html,” said Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring.
Copies of the project documents were not available at the notified places. “The Government Library in Periyar Salai in Palavakkam did not have either the EIA or the Executive Summary when I went there to check yesterday,” said C. Srinivasan, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur.
Contrary to the Notification’s requirements that the public hearing should be held as close to the project site as possible, the hearing was held 10 km away at a marriage hall in an altogether different district. Appendix IV (Para 1) of the EIA Notification requires the public hearing to be held in close proximity to the project site district-wise.
Another procedural violation that nullifies the public hearing is the fact that the Chair of the public hearing, namely the District Collector failed to read out the proceedings of the public hearing at the end as required under the section titled “Procedure for Conduct of Public Hearing” contained in Appendix IV of the EIA Notification, 2006. Additionally, Para 6.1 of the Appendix IV of the Notification says “. . .the summary of the Public Hearing proceedings accurately reflecting all views and concerns expressed shall be recorded by the representatives of the SPCB. . .and read over to the audience at the end of the proceedings explaining the contents in the vernacular language.”
Other procedural violations include the partisan and political manner in which the public hearing was conducted. The Mayor of Chennai was invited to the stage to sing the praises of the ruling party immediately after the project proponent’s presentation. Following this, ruling party cadre dominated the hearing with their statements supporting the project, and anybody opposing the project was intimidated by the party cadre. Many residents left without speaking.
The proposal intends to process mixed waste inside the Pallikaranai marshlands, a natural heritage site which is home to 126 bird species, 141 plant species, 46 freshwater fish species, 15 species of marine fish, 20 butterfly species and 8 mammals. The siting guidelines under the MSW Rules, 2000, prescribe that waste facilities cannot be located close to residential areas or water-bodies. The current proposal is located within a water-body and in close proximity to residential areas.
Numerous residential welfare associations, including Kalakshetra Colony and Valmiki Nagar and the Urur Kuppam fisher panchayat have made submissions that they wish to segregate their own wastes and have them treated in a decentralised manner. Residents living in the vicinity of the dumpyard have said they will take this matter with the Pollution Control Board committee and in court.
For more information:
V Srinivasan, Save Pallikarnai Marshlands Forum, 9840081114
Nityanand Jayaraman, Besant Nagar Resident, 9444082401
Shweta Narayan, Community Environment Monitoring, 9444024315