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Coastline mapping to check over-exploitation

M.L. Melly Maitreyi

HYDERABAD: The Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to assess the carrying capacity of India's coastline before allowing multi-sector industries to come up along the coast in the designated areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Speaking to journalists here on Saturday, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said that as a prerequisite for the above, satellite-mapping of the coastline had been taken up.

“We have to make a cumulative environment impact assessment [EIA] as against that of individual projects to get the real picture. The high-erosion areas in Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Gujarat coasts were identified and no more projects will be allowed there. The satellite-mapping of the Andhra Pradesh coast will be completed soon,” he said.

Another significant decision of the Ministry is to have an accredited system of consultants to give EIA reports.

“EIA reports have become a bit of a joke. So I have been concerned about this. The Supreme Court also expressed its concern. We have blacklisted three consultants for giving fraudulent EIA reports,” Mr. Ramesh said.

He made it clear that power plants or other industries violating environment protection laws will not be condoned.

The Centre will hereafter seek third-party assessment about projects in ecologically sensitive areas such as wetlands or multiple-sector projects.

“I hope this will change the flawed system because even reputed organisations have been doing cut-and-paste jobs,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said the power projects in Sompeta and Kakarapalli of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh were served notices under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, and that proceedings were continuing.

“We are beginning to grapple with the issue of wetlands, and the wetland rules were notified in December 2010. Satellite-mapping of all wetlands was also taken up and an atlas will be released this month,” he said.

The satellite-mapping was necessitated because wetlands were classified as waste lands in revenue records. The ambiguity related to wetlands had to be ended, he said.

Referring to obstacles facing the Polavaram project, Mr. Ramesh said the public hearing that was to be held in Orissa and Chhattisgarh in view of the submergence of some villages in both States was not held.

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