Construction Cos not following environment impact assessment guidelines
Most of the Highway Construction Companies (HCC) are not following the environmental impact assessment guidelines while executing development works on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, experts said.
According to environmentalists, under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, no project can be executed without the formal environmental clearance from the State and Government of India.
“The law is applicable to the State as the Pollution Control Board (PCB) is the nodal agency,” they said.
Throwing rules to the wind, these companies are carrying road widening projects and dumping debris, muck, construction material and oil into Chenab and Tawi rivers.
Recently, a petition was filed by a Ramban resident at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against rampant dumping of soil in Chenab and Tawi.
He had sought directions to restrain the authorities from throwing debris in the water bodies while constructing the stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar highway between Udhampur and Banihal.
Acting on the petition, NGT slapped a penalty of Rs 1 crore each on the Gammon India Limited and the Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd for damaging the environment by dumping soil in these rivers.
The tribunal also suggested the State government and the Forest department to show serious concern in providing suitable and adequate number of new dumping sites to the project proponent within the shortest possible time.
The NGT had earlier directed the State government and the PCB to test ambient air quality in the entire construction stretch of Udhampur-Banihal highway after a plea alleged air pollution in the area.
Commenting on the issue, an environment lawyer, Nadeem Qadri said there was a need to implement the Environmental Clearance Act in the letter and spirit in the State.
“Solid waste, not only in the form of plastic and polythene but any waste even in the salt form like construction material and building material should not be thrown into the water bodies,” he said.
Qadri said for bringing down cost, the construction companies were unloading waste material into the rivers, leading to contamination and pollution of the water.
He also criticized the PCB for not taking serious action against the violators.
“The powers vested under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 lies with the PCB. The implementation of the conditions and the environmental clearance is the core and fundamental responsibility of the PCB. They give the letter of consent and that needs to be renewed yearly,” Qadri said.
But Regional Director PCB, Shally Ranjan believes that the board does not have powers to prosecute.
“It is a regulatory body and there are ways to prosecute but the powers lie with the PCB’s Member Secretary," she said.
Ranjan said NGT had acted on the issue and slapped penalty to both the construction companies violating the environmental guidelines.
“There is debris of landslides also, which is being dumped by the government. It may take some time. The regional as well as divisional officers don’t have the powers to prosecute,” she said.
Environmentalist and hydraulic expert, Ajaz Rasool said the State cannot afford deterioration of the river system in the name of development.
“The construction companies have to dump the muck and construction material on the highway away from the site and without killing the ecological balance of the rivers. They even have to control the excessive dust,” he said.
Rasool said the construction work had been going on for the last 4 to 5 years.
“Every construction in the State has to adhere to the special rules concerned with the ecological balance of the State. By throwing the construction waste into the rivers will not only pollute them but also divert the flow of water and change the regime of the rivers,” he said.