Indiatimes|The Times of India|The Economic Times|
Tags:SEIAA|MOEF|K S Reddy|C Kaliyaperumal
HYDERABAD: Over the last one decade, about 1,500 to 2,000 projects in Andhra Pradesh (commercial, industrial and residential) were granted environmental clearance by the central and state authorities. Yet, only a minor percentage of these 'green' buildings are seen adhering to the stringent rulebook issued to them during the clearance process. Reason? As bizarre as it may sound, the entire state of AP has just one official assigned by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to monitor these thousands of projects primarily spread across cities such as Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupati.
Worse, the official is not even based in Hyderbad but works out of MoEF's regional office in Bangalore and visits AP not more than once every month. The MoEF's regional office has four additional director-level employees who take turns to monitor four southern states, with one official taking responsibility of one state each at any given time. At present C Kaliyaperumal is in-charge of Andhra Pradesh. Reserving his comment on the issue, Kaliyaperumal, when contacted, said, "We are bound by an MoEF policy and we have to do our job."
However, other officials were more candid. "It is humanly impossible to keep tabs on each of these projects and ensure that they are abiding by the norms," said an official from MoEF's Bangalore regional office that is responsible for issuing environmental clearances to projects coming up in the four southern states. He added, "Apart from physically visiting each of these industries and other real estate ventures, the same official is also expected to attend to all the paper work in the office and even be present for court hearings as the government has several cases going on in various courts."
Other officials, however, made no bones about admitting that it was indeed a herculean task. Till recently, these officials were only responsible for the projects cleared by the Centre, however, they are now being compelled to look into constructions cleared by the state environment impact assessment authority ( SEIAA). "As a result the number of projects to be monitored has jumped drastically," said one of them pointing out how just about 50 projects (of the total 1,500-2000) in AP are those cleared by the Centre. It is for such reasons, say environmental experts in the city, that the entire process of procuring clearances has become a gimmick. According to them, most industries (primarily those in the pharma sector), commercial establishments and mid-sized residential projects these days do not implement the environmental norms prescribed in the clearance certificate. "For example, the rulebook says that every 'green' project should have a sewage treatment plant. But how many have them in reality? Only a handful," said a city-based environmental consultant adding how many do not even send their half-yearly environment reports (again a rule) to the regional office.
Senior MoEF officials, however, deny such claims. When contacted, K S Reddy, chief conservator of forests, regional office (Bangalore) said, "We are doing our best to ensure that entrepreneurs adhere by the norms. It is incorrect to say that the entire system is in a mess."
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