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"Have a re-look at coastal projects"

14 May 2008

A.V.Ragunathan
The Hindu

Environmentalists flay "single window clearance" concept

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Industrial proposals are being cleared within 30 days under the system
Chemical units on the coast, in the event of floods and tsunami, will cause havoc
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CUDDALORE: Environmental activists, ecologists and consumer organisations have raised their voice against the "single window clearance" concept for sanctioning industries, particularly in the coastal areas.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, it has become imperative on the part of the policy-makers and the government to spare thoughts for protecting the fragile coastal eco-system. Hence, they demand scrapping of the single window system and reverting to the earlier practice of scrutinising the entire gamut of issues involved, according to Rajesh Rangarajan of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) that has taken up the post-tsunami environmental restoration projects in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

These issues were discussed at the meeting of the representatives of the coastal community and self-help groups, convened here recently by the CAG and the Cuddalore District Consumer Protection Organisation.

Mr. Rangarajan told The Hindu earlier that any new project was vetted by at least a dozen departments but under the single window system the industrial proposals were being cleared within 30 days.

In the first place the government should decide whether the industries should be located in the coastal areas, thereby turning the sea into a pollution sink for discharging untreated effluents.

It was a matter of concern that even the Coastal Zone Regulation Act was amended to facilitate the location of industries on the coast.

When the Cheyyur power project ran into problem owing to public outcry the planners were targeting the ecologically sensitive Marakkanam area for shifting the project.

In such an eventuality, the sand dunes at Marakkanam that were the natural safeguard against tidal waves would be the first casualty. The CAG was advocating sector-specific environment impact assessment to evolve a set of templates to be applied all over, he said.

The meeting took stock of the government move to concentrate a whole lot of industries - chemical, textile, oil refinery, etc. - along the Cuddalore coast.

It sought to empower the coastal community with information on such ventures and on how to protect the ecology as well as their livelihood.

Executive secretary of the consumer forum M. Nizamudeen said that the chemical units on the coast, in the event of floods and tsunami, would cause havoc to humanity and ecology. None of the projects in the pipeline seemed to have taken cognizance of the threat, he said.

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