Himachal lacks mechanism to assess environmental impacts: CAG

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Shimla, April 2 (IANS) The environmentally sensitive Himachal Pradesh that supports a fragile ecosystem lacks institutional mechanism to assess environmental impact of developmental and industrial projects, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said.

The state Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the state Expert Appraisal Committee and the state Pollution Control Board lacked adequate manpower for scrutiny, it said in its report tabled in the assembly last week.

It said there was shortage of technical and scientific staff ranging between 51 and 55 per cent in the Pollution Control Board from 2008 to 2016.

The auditor pointed out delay in granting and renewal of environment clearances to the projects, which resulted in the project authorities continuing to operate their projects without getting environment clearances.

Neither the Environment Impact Assessment Authority nor the PCB has been regularly monitoring compliance with conditions of the environment clearances of the projects, the CAG said.

Environment protection measures like development of green belt in the project areas, compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment plan and disposal of muck generated with the construction were not carried out by the project authorities despite funds were allocated, it said.

In the hill state there are four groups of projects for which environment clearance is required. They are industrial, construction, non-coal mining and river valley and hydroelectric projects.

Of the 60 test-checked projects for the environment clearance, there was delay in appraisal of environment impact assessment by the expert appraisal committee in 19 cases, ranging from 14 days to two years and nine months.

Likewise, there was delay in grant of the environment clearance by the Environment Impact Assessment Authority in 42 cases ranging from eight days to three years, it said.

It is a process to identify environmental impacts of a project prior to its approval.

The CAG also picked holes in compensatory afforestation to be carried out by the state forest department in lieu of the land diverted to the project.

Taking up the case of the 100 MW Sainj hydroelectric project constructed by Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd in Kullu, the central government in May 2009 directed project authorities to carry out compensatory afforestation in 96 hectares.

The CAG said the project proponent had deposited Rs 93 lakh in September 2010 with the forest department but no plantation was carried out till August last year.

“Non-compliance of the conditions with regard to the compensatory afforestation has adversely affected the maintenance of environmental stability and ecological balance,” said the auditor.

Likewise, the catchment area treatment plan of the Sainj hydroelectric run-of river project on the Sainj river, a tributary of the Beas, costing Rs 10.40 crore required to be implemented in three years (2010-13) has not been completed till August last year by the forest department, it added.

The CAG asked the state government to evolve an online stack emission monitoring systems and effluent quality monitoring systems in polluting industries.

It also suggested uploading the online emission and effluent monitoring data at the servers of the state pollution control board and the Central Pollution Control Board.

–IANS

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