Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue VII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue VII

Newsletter-July-2014 (2.8 MB, 674 downloads)

No EIA donefor 2063 Crore Project

Gujarat Government under the leadership of Mr Narendra Modi had announced constructing a 182 meter high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Sadhu-bet island which is in between the ecologically fragile Satpuda and Vidyachal ranges on the Narmada riverbed, in the proposed reservoir of Garudeshwar weir, about 3.5kms from the Sardar Sarovar dam. Mr. Modi had laid the foundation stone for this Rs. 2063 crore project last year without even an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This proposed statue named the Statue of Unity is being touted as the worlds tallest statue with a height twice that of the height of Statue of Liberty in US.

Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), a Gujarat state owned enterprise is in charge of the implementation of the Project. According to the statue of unity website, the access to the proposed statue is by a 3.5km boat ride. Near the statue a 500 feet tall observation deck which can accommodate 200 people would be constructed. There would also be a large underwater acquarium constructed to keep visitors happy. A large modern canopied public plaza, overlooking the river and the Statue, will be constructed which will have scrumptious food stalls, ornate gift shops, retail kiosks and other visitor amenities. There are also plans to connect the project site by infrastructure such as expressways, improved rail system and helipads.

This massive project just got a budgetary allocation of 200 crores from the Union Government headed by Mr. Modi. Unfortunately, for such a massive project coming up on a river-bed, no Environment Impact Assessment is done. Such projects are legally required to conduct EIA with environment and social impact assessment. There has been no public consultation as well. This is clearly a violation of Environment Protection Act 1986 as well as EIA notification of 2006.

Location of the statue in Sardar Sarovar

Location of the statue in Sardar Sarovar

The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) in response to a recent RTI petition has reportedly said that Environment clearance is not required and hence environmental and social impact assessment of the State of Unity project and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area is not carried out. SSNNL feels that since the project area is less than 20,000 square meters no EIA is required.

According to the amended notification dated 14.09.2006 all large construction projects greater than 20,000 sq. meters built up area require environment clearance. Though SSNL says that project is less than 20,000 square meters, the act says that the built up area is for covered construction and in case of facilities open to the sky it is the activity area. Clearly much of this project is in the open area. The statue is in the open. People would be visiting this place by boats and would be boating all around the statue. So the entire sadhu-bet island would be the activity area. So SSNLs defense that this project doesnt require environment impact assessment is a blatant violation of the rule.

A cursory look at the Manual on norms and standards for environment clearance of large construction projects by MoEF and one will get a fair idea about how EIA needs for this project as it says large projects tend to have associated and consequential impacts. Innovative approaches should be adopted to conserve resources, in particular, energy and water. Backward linkages of the proposed project, such as the source and manner of procurement of materials and forward linkages, such as kind and manner of disposal of debris, should be duly considered along with the proposed project.

SSNNL is delinking the Expressway, rail link and helipads from the project for the purpose of environment impact assessment. They are designing the place to be a major tourist hub with sound and light shows, convention centres, under water aquarium etc. Not much of these details are made public, perhaps by design. Clearly the SSNNL is trying to hoodwink the public. It would be grave injustice if SSNNL is allowed to continue with this project without conducting a proper and transparent EIA.

Can an ecologically fragile area handle such massive land use changes and the influx of so many tourists?

In another move the new Modi Government at the centre has reconstituted the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and has inducted only three members and that too two being from Gujarat. Out of the three members one is GEER (Gujarat Ecological Education and Research) which is run by the Gujarat Government and the other member with Gujarat connection is Mr. H. S. Singh who is a retired officer from Gujarat Cadre. Mr. Raman Sukumar is the third member. According to the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act 2002 ( http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/MINISTRY%20OF%20LAW%20AND%20JUSTICE.pdf )the NBWL should have 5 persons representing NGOs and ten individuals of repute from conservationists, ecologists should be nominated to the board by the centre. Unfortunately, the Government has choosen to seriously curtail the number of members by defying the law of the land. This doesnt portend well for the various projects that come before the board.

In the unlikely event that projects like the Sardar Patel statue which is promoted by the Gujarat Government reaches the NBWL, then does anyone expect Gujarat Government run GEER to be impartial and oppose the move? Will GEER go against the Gujarat Governments opposition to the lion relocation project?

If the Sardar Patel statue project goes ahead, then this will become a precedent to make many more such projects in future where the various components are delinked and EIA norms will be thrown to the winds. I guess we can now have helipads in most of the popular National Parks as taking cue from this project no EIA will be conducted. In this era of competitive populism, no one can fault if tomorrow say Miss Jayalalithaa, the CM of Tamil Nadu decides to create a 200 meter statue of Anna in one of the ecologically fragile areas or the statue to commemorate all the tamils dead in Srilanka. Miss Mamata Banerjee too can set up a statue to proudly proclaim Bengali pride in say Sundarbans. Is there any end to this madness?

Clearly the Gujarat Government doesnt care much about protecting our ecologically fragile places. Under Mr. Modis leadership the Gujarat Government had started this project. Now that Mr. Modi has become the Prime Minister, will he listen to our pleas against this blatant environmental vandalism? Can we continue to sacrifice our environment in the altar of market economics?

We have just completed the first anniversary of the massive devastation in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Tens of thousands of people had lost their lives and even today the locals there are struggling to come to grips with their lives. In such situation, it would have been imperative that all our efforts would have gone in helping them come up rather than leave them to lead a life in penury. No amount of celebrating the life of our freedom fighters and erecting monuments can unify the country when the present generation is suffering. Can a body be healthy if one part is wounded? When will we get our priorities right? When our brothers and sisters in the hills are suffering, do we splurge on statues?

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel during his younger days used to work in the fields and had paid for his travel to England for studies through his own hardwork. If he were alive, he would have been ashamed by this naked display wealth.

IndiaWilds App for Android Mobile

In India most of the internet penetration is happening through mobile phones. And the existing users who have access to desktops and laptops are becoming much more mobile then they used to be a few years ago. So to raise awareness and reach out to more people we need to adapt ourselves and make IndiaWilds easily accessed through a mobile phone using android OS.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we have created a mobile phone app so that people can access IndiaWilds anytime, anywhere without being tied to a computer. No need to type. One can access at the click of a button.

We have developed this app through Business Compass LLC a company based in Randolph, New Jersey, United States so that we create a good app.

Awareness is the first step before a person can become a champion of wildlife. I hope this will help us in reaching out to more people to raise awareness and make a real impact on the conservation landscape. If you have an android device then please download the app from this link:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.businesscompassllc.indiawilds

Other Conservation News:

Union Budget from Environment & Wildlife Perspective:

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14594-Union-Budget-2014-from-Environment-amp-Wildlife-Perspective

The Nagoya Protocol receives 50thinstrument of ratification and will come into force on October 12, 2014

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14626-Nagoya-Protocol-on-ABS-to-come-into-force-on-12th-Oct-2014

MoEF launches website for Forest Clearance:

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14618-MoEF-launches-web-portal-for-online-forest-clearance

Bor Becomes 47th Tiger Reserve:

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14577-Bor-becomes-47th-Tiger-Reserve

Two more elephants mowed down in Jalpaiguri:

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14571-Killer-Trains-Two-more-elephants-mowed-down-in-Jalpaiguri

Conservation Imagery

Killer Roads by Sabyasachi Patra

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14621

Book Review

The Last Wave: By Pankaj Sekhsaria

http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/the-last-wave/

The Last Wave by Pankaj Sekhsaria

The Last Wave by Pankaj Sekhsaria

 

Equipment Discussions

MYT 3-in-1 Slider dolly Review

http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/myt-3-in-1-slider-review/

Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: The ‘Water Dog’: By Saktipada Panigrahi

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?8852-Country-notebook-m-krishnan&p=70366#post70366

Sounds of Nature

Miniature Night Frog by Abhishek Jamalabad

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14634-Miniature-Night-Frog

Wildlife Photography

Ranthambore Diary June-14 by Vipin Sharma

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14566-Ranthambore-Diary-June-14

Indian Pika by Murugan Anantharaman

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14542-Indian-Pika

Indian Fox in its den by Subhash Shrivastava

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14539-Indian-Fox-in-it-s-den-Rollapadu-WLS-Kurnool

Pre Monsoon View by Bibhav Behera

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14595-Pre-Monsoon-View

Maya with cubs by Atul Dhamankar

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14529-Maya-with-cub-in-her-mouth

Grey Heron Landing by Paramvir Singh

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14516-Grey-Heron-Landing

Malabar Trogon Male by Shyamala Kumar

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14513-Malabar-Trogon-Male

An Evening by Jitendra Katre

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?14555-An-evening

I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country. For other interesting articles and images check –http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/
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Regards,

Sabyasachi Patra

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Newsletter-July-2014 (2.8 MB, 674 downloads)
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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
Sabyasachi Patra
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