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Jairam out of sync with his ministry's line

05 May 2011

Gokul Chandrasekar
Express News Service

CHENNAI: Responding to an Express article titled "TNPCB fudged data to push for moratorium lift in Cuddalore", Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said that the Cuddalore moratorium was lifted solely based on an action plan submitted to the ministry by the TNPCB.

He further added that it was not necessary for the pollution levels to come down before the moratorium was lifted, a statement that is proved otherwise by his ministryís official records.

The Express article that Jairam reacted to had highlighted a report by the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM), which claimed that TNPCB and CPCB had manipulated data to accelerate the lifting of moratorium. "The moratorium has been lifted based on a four-step procedure. First, an action plan was prepared by the TNPCB. This was reviewed by the Central Pollution Control Board. Then, the ministry finalised the action plan followed by initiation of its implementation," Jairam told Express. "These are the only formalities to be completed before lifting the moratorium. The reduction of pollution will not happen overnight," Jairam added.

However, an office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, dated August 30, 2010, accessed by Express, proves otherwise. The Office Memorandum (No. J-11013/5/2010-IA.II(I)), which calls for the extension of the moratorium till October 31, 2010, stated, "It was observed that mere preparation of action plans would not serve the intended purpose unless these plans are effectively implemented in the field for improving the environmental quality in these clusters. It was therefore decided that the CPCB would see the status of initiation of the implementation of the action plans in those industrial clusters...."

Shweta Narayan of SACEM claimed, "Two serious concerns arise out of Jairamís statement. One, the very purpose of the moratorium is ambiguous if it was not meant to exist till the pollution levels come down remarkably. Action plans could have been formulated even without a moratorium."

"Two, the action plan devised by the TNPCB is flawed and is formulated based on fudged data. And hence, the outcome after its implementation will be no better."

Earlier this month SACEM brought out a report highlighting the ongoing violation of environmental rules in SIPCOT Cuddalore, even during the period when the moratorium was imposed. As of September 2010, 21 out of the 31 industrial units in the SIPCOT Cuddalore park did not even have a valid consent to operate, according to official records.

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