Blames Centre for not issuing guidelines for long

Public Works Department (PWD) has asserted that State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) had not committed any kind of illegality in granting environmental clearance for quarrying sand from 18 locations in Cauvery and Kollidam rivers flowing through Karur, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts.

Filing a counter affidavit in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) petition pending before the Madras High Court Bench here, P. Balasubramanian, Executive Engineer, PWD, River Conservancy Division, Tiruchi, blamed the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests for not having issued guidelines with respect to environment clearance until December 24, 2013.

He accused the Centre of sitting over the issue for long despite the SEIAA having sent several reminders to issue the guidelines as per Environment Impact Assessment Notification issued in 2006. “In the absence of a reply from the Union Ministry, it was decided on August 28, 2012, to follow the procedure adopted by the SEIAA, Andhra Pradesh, in this regard,” the counter affidavit read.

The counter, served on R. Nandakumar, counsel for the PIL petitioner, Kollidam Aaru Pathukappu Nala Sangam, also said the litigant had already taken up the issue of non-compliance of December 2013 guidelines with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Chennai, and the matter got disposed of on February 24 with a direction to comply with the guidelines within six months.

However, the tribunal refused to restrain the PWD from continuing mining operations until the guidelines were complied with.

If the petitioner association was aggrieved with such refusal, it ought to have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in accordance with Section 22 of the NGT Act and not a PIL before the High Court, the Executive Engineer contended.

“It is also submitted that this honourable court ought not to have entertained the present writ petition in the light of the specific provision for appeal to the honourable Supreme Court,” Mr. Balasubramanian added.

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