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CMs meet likely soon on environment impact assessment

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JUNE 18. The Centre may soon convene a conference of Chief Ministers to convince them of the need for making environment impact assessment (EIA) mandatory for urban projects costing Rs. 50 crores and more, the Union Environment and Forests Minister, A. Raja, said today.

Replying to queries by presspersons here, he said responses were now being obtained from the States to a draft notification issued by the Ministry last year. Once all of them gave their comments, a final notification would be issued.

Some State governments took the stand that the draft notification was an assault on the concept of federalism. Pointing out that there was no need for any apprehension, Mr. Raja said he himself came from a regional party (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), which always stood for federalism. "At the same time, the Government of India has a duty to protect coastal areas."

To a question, the Minister said the process would be completed in one year. When it was pointed out that seven or eight months had elapsed since the draft notification was issued, he said, "everything will be over in four or five months. We will meet the Supreme Court's deadline."

(The court in December 2001 asked the Ministry to "mend the rules under the Environment (Protection) Act so as to require the EIA for purposes of town planning Acts." It issued the draft notification in October 2003.)

Alluding to the controversy raised over the draft notification in the context of the Tamil Nadu Government's proposal to construct a new Secretariat complex at Kotturpuram here, Mr. Raja said when the Union Government issued any order or direction, it should not be viewed as targeting a particular State or political party.

On environmental concerns expressed in certain quarters over the Sethusamudram project, he said, "whether it is Sethusamudram or any other project, environmental issues cannot be compromised at any cost and at any point of time."

On the report submitted by the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) on the project, the Minister said it was being studied. Asked whether the Shipping Ministry had approached his Ministry for getting approval for the project, Mr. Raja said, "Not yet."

On the progress of the National River Conservation Project, he said he had asked officials in the Ministry to visit States, study the situation and facilitate speedy implementation.

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