National policy on environmental impact assessment soon: Ramesh

Ramesh told reporters here that under the new system, the ministry would take the lead in commissioning environmental impact assessments of projects in designated ecologically fragile areas like wetlands or close to forest areas or of integrated projects like mining-cum-power-cum-port projects.

The minister noted that under the existing system, the proponents of the projects themselves do the environmental impact assessment. He stressed the need for cumulative impact assessment in areas with a huge concentration of industrial projects like in Nellore, Srikakulam  and Kakinada (all in Andhra Pradesh).

The ministry is undertaking a cumulative impact assessment of all power projects in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra and of all hydel projects in Uttarakhand, he said.
Ramesh requested the Andhra Pradesh government to take up a similar exercise in Krishnapatnam, Srikakulam and other parts of the state and assured all assistance from his ministry.

The minister declared that two bills for land acquisition and a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy would be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament. "A bill will be introduced to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 1894," he said.

Opposing land acquisition for projects forcibly or through coercion, he said it should be through dialogue, democratic means and after  paying adequate compensation. On the Posco issue, he said the matter was now entirely left to the Orissa government. It was up to Orissa government to acquire the land through democratic means, Ramesh said, reiterating that environment and forest clearance is a not a license for forcible or coercive land acquisition.

"I am sure Orissa government will demonstrate the greatest sensitivity in matter of land acquisition particularly since children seem to have been made first line of attack. Situation has to be handled very carefully and sensitively and I hope that no untoward incident takes  place," he said in an obvious reference to the ongoing agitation against $12 billion project by the South Korean steel major.

On sand mining in Haridwar along the Ganga's banks, the minister said if the Uttarakhand government failed to take credible action in three to four weeks, he would not hesitate to take action. He pointed out that under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, he had to have the powers to issue show cause and closure notices.

Ramesh said it was an important issue but nobody in media  seemed to have bothered about till the tragic demise of Swami Nigamanada, who was fasting against the Ganga's pollution.

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