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Public hearing on petroleum coke undemocratic: NAPM
Instead of concentrating on clearing doubts of the public and improving EIA process, imposing projects on the people in the name of development is unfortunate despite the recent experience of several government officials and a minister sitting in jail for misuse of office, observed National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

THE NAPM condemned the undemocratic manner in which public hearing for a proposed calcined petroleum coke was held on June 6, 2012 at Chatametta village of Rambili Mnandal near Visakhapatanam in Andhra Pradesh. NAPM leaders B Ramakrishnam Raju, P S Ajay Kumar, Saraswati Kavula, Dr. K. Babu Rao (Andhra Pradesh), Prafulla Samatara (Odisha), Gabriele Dietrich (Tamil Nadu), Dr. Sunilam and Advocate Aradhana Bhargava (Madhya Pradesh), Roshan Lal Agarwal (Chattisgarh), Madhuresh Kumar and Seela Manaswinee (New Delhi), said, “Public hearings are a tool for environmental governance and it can’t be reduced to a mere formality.”

According to them, the project affected people opposed the project and wanted the EPH cancelled as adequate information on pollution and health effects from the project was not given. So they sat in protest on the road demanding cancellation of the EPH. But the police roughed up a few protesters leading to retaliation from angered people. It leads to breaking of windscreens of two police jeeps.

Meanwhile, officials reached the public hearing venue through an alternative route and began the EPH despite protests from people. On knowing about the meeting people reached the venue and some of them expressed their opinion. Sri J V Ratnam, Member, Movement for People Centred Development distributed pamphlets at the venue exposing the errors in the EIA report and expressed opinion to the electronic media. For that the police filed a case under 307 against him and 25 others including several women.

Stating that dissent is an essential ingredient of democracy, NAPM warned that if there is no tolerance towards dissent and attempt to murder cases are filed against persons differing with company reports how can we call ours a democracy.

Instead of concentrating on clearing doubts if the public and improving EIA process, imposing projects on the people in the name of development is unfortunate despite the recent experience of several government officials and a minister sitting in jail for misuse of office, they said.

They deplored that there is hardly any evidence of rejecting environmental clearance to any project whatever the quality of the EIA and the true impacts to public health and environment.

Under such conditions prevailing, they cautioned, people are losing faith about their genuine concerns being taken care. Several recent National Green Tribunals judgments clearly show how the regulatory system has become an accessory to project proponents against public interest, they added.

NAPM leaders have demanded that all the cases filed against the people be withdrawn and the genuine concerns of the people addressed appropriately through a consultation process.

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