29 November 2007: Mangalore Petrochemical SEZ Environmental Public Hearing Ended Abruptly
In what is turning out to be another aggressive effort to push ahead with a Special Economic Zone, the Deputy Commissioner of Mangalore district in Karnataka, Mr. Maheshwar Rao, IAS, decided to abruptly end proceedings of a statutory Environmental Public Hearing being held in Bajpe town on 28 November 2007. He refused to accept the demand of over 4000 local people who had gathered to participate in the proceedings that it made no sense to them to hold a Hearing, when the Environment Impact Assessment was furnished to them in English, and not in the local language of Kannada.
The investment in question was the proposal of Oil and Natural Gas Commission of India to establish a massive Petrochemicals based Special Economic Zone over 4,000 acres of pristine agricultural, mountainous terrain replete with rivers and streams, in one of the most ecologically sensitive regions of India. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board called for the Public Hearing with a 30 day notice, but without providing the EIA in a language that people could understand, as required by law.
Undeterred by the fact that to hold the Hearing, despite this fundamental lacunae in dissemination of information, would make the entire process unconstitutional, the Deputy Commissioner held on to his questionable interpretation. Those gathered demanded almost total unanimity postponement of the Public Hearing, which in fact is allowed by the EIA Notification. But this demand was callously brushed aside by the officer who left rather abruptly and without in any categorical manner explaining to the hundreds gathered what this action meant.
Troubled by such abuse of power, a large section of the participants travelled to Mangalore city (20 kms. away) and held a demonstration in front of the DC’s office till very late in the night. Their only demand was that the DC must order postponement of the Hearing in accordance with the EIA Notification, and announce the date for a fresh hearing when KSPCB and ONGC fully complied with the requirements of the law. Neither did the DC come to receive this representation, nor has he issued any official communication of how his action should be interpreted.
The deeply flawed EIA Notification 2006 (see Green Tapism for details) clearly allows the Government to proceed with the process of clearing a project of such scale, even if the process of Public Hearing has not been properly conducted. Clearly an undemocratic and illegal provision, this flaw has been repeatedly abused by various authorities resulting in widespread violation of human rights and environmental norms.
Read the detailed statement issued by “Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samithi” (Farm Land Protection Committee) that represents all the affected villages the proposed site of the 4000 acres Mangalore Petrochemicals SEZ.
- Demand to postpone the environmental public hearing on the proposed Mangalore SEZ in compliance with the EIA notification – Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samithi – Bajpe, 28 November 2007. (Download Kannada Version)
- Public hearing on MSEZ ends abruptly – The Hindu – 29 November 2007
- People wait for hours to submit memorandum to official – The Hindu – 29 November 2007
- M’lore SEZ meet cut short amid protests – Deccan Herald – 29 November 2007
- MSEZ public hearing ends abruptly – Deccan Herald – 29 November 2007
- Public hearing meet ends abruptly – New Indian Express