These days, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) doesn't seem to attach too much importance to public hearings while conducting the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of projects. Why else would it have chosen to bypass this step, as it put Arunachal Pradesh's Siang Middle hydroelectric power project on the agenda of its expert committee's meeting?
Normally, the MoEF conducts an EIA before clearing such projects and public hearings are a key element of such an assessment. But in this case, it called an expert panel's meeting before holding the public hearing.
The 1,000-mega watt project on Siyom river in the northeastern state is being undertaken by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (nhpc). The agency handling a project has to take various statutory clearances, including the EIA.
"Initially, the public hearing was to be held on April 15 and the expert committee meet was to take place on April 28. But the hearing was first postponed to April 30, and now it has been deferred to June because of the general elections," reveals A K Mishra of nhpc. When asked why the project was put on the agenda of the expert panel if the public hearing on it could not be held, MoEF director Shiv Kumar refused to comment.