'Eco norms violated in SEZ, Surathkal highway widening'

Six Karnataka projects, including the Phase 1 of Mangalore Special Economic Zone and widening of a highway near Surathkal, have been named by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) among the violators of environmental norms, which the project developers were supposed to adhere to.

These projects were accorded green approval with conditions that the project proponents were to follow to improve the ecological condition of the surrounding areas. However, a reality check by the CAG came up with a completely different picture, exposing the flaws in India's environmental regulatory system.

For instance, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) was given approval for a project to widen the Kundapura-Surathkal highway with a stipulation that 14,956 trees would be cut. But 18,400 trees were felled as NHAI implemented the project without any approval for cutting down more than 3,400 additional trees.

The environment management plan of the first phase of the Mangalore Special Economic Zone project had a capital component of Rs 600 crore and an annual Rs 100 crore revenue expenditure. The money was to be spent on pollution control monitoring system, green belt and social welfare. However, the project proponent incurred a capital expenditure of Rs 186.71 crore and no revenue expenditure on the EMP, leading to a shortfall of 72% on the money needed for improving the environment, the CAG said in its report tabled in the Parliament on Friday.

The private sector is no better. The environment clearance given to mining projects lists out the conditions on how the over burden dumps are to be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. But two projects to enhance the iron ore production of M/s V S Lad and Son Iron Ore mine in Ballari and M/s Ashwathnarayana Singh were found gross violators.

In the first project, the mining dumps were not protected against erosion and thick plantation of native trees were not carried out. The violations actually led to the cancellation of the mining lease. In the second project, the dumps were not properly stabilised.

These are among the 352 projects that the CAG examined to check if the project developers follows that environmental clearance conditions while executing their projects.

Other violators from Karnataka are a 1.12 kilo litre per day capacity molasses-based distillery unit of Nirani Sugars Ltd at Bagalkot and Sri Rameshwara Lift Irrigation Scheme of Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited in Belagavi.

The distillery unit was found deficient for not installing effluent treatment plants, non-construction of the rain water harvesting system and shortfall in emergency preparedness plan. The lift irrigation scheme on the other hand did not implement the catchment area treatment plan to check soil erosion.

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