Green activists have expressed shock over the clearance for the Kalu dam project given by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), in total disregard of the orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Central Information Commission.

Green activists have expressed shock over the clearance for the Kalu dam project given by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), in total disregard of the orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Central Information Commission. 

“This is a U-turn from the FAC’s decision on April 2, 2012 to not give clearance for the Kalu project,” said Indavi Tulpule of the Shramik Mukti Sangathana, the NGO that had filed a case in the high court against the project and had managed to get a stay on the work. 

The dam is to be built in Murbad tehsil of Thane district that falls in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats region. The NGO has argued that this drinking water project for Mumbai and Thane threatens to submerge 18 villages and there is no rehabilitation plan for the 18,000 people who will be displaced. 

The FAC had also refused clearance for the project a year ago, as the project was started without seeking forest clearance, no environment impact assessment (EIA), or technical report on the wildlife status, and no gram sabha resolutions on the compliance of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). 

“All of the Maharashtra Water Resource Department’s (MWRD) illegalities and irregularities still stand today, they have not been addressed, and it’s not like the 1,000 plus hectares of Western Ghats’ forests which will be destroyed have vanished in a year,” Tulpule pointed out. 

The FAC cleared the project at a meeting on April 3-4, 2013, without bothering to disclose this publicly as required under the law. Minutes of the meeting became available only on Thursday. 

“The FAC did not see the need to ascertain whether all these requirements were in place even when it was pointed out in a letter dated October 29, 2012 and again on March 25, 2013 that no such resolutions exist,” Tulpule said. The NGO intends to pursue the case in the high court which is already seized of the matter. 

In a blatant violation of the Central Information Commission’s orders, no documents submitted by the MWRD on the Kalu project were available on the MoEF website even a week before the FAC meeting. 

In October 2012, Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan said, “These actions and decisions of officials are unacceptable. The forthcoming FAC meeting will be postponed, and I’ll resolve these (violations and non-compliance)  issues.”

Courtesy: dna

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