Facing criticism that it is playing politics with green clearances, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, led by Jairam Ramesh, has initiated informal action against the Rs. 9,000 crore Indira Sagar dam and irrigation project in Polavaram.

On Monday, MoEF sent a letter to the Andhra Pradesh government asking why a public hearing has not been held in the neighbouring States of Orissa and Chhattisgarh where submergence could take place. The project has also failed to obtain an environmental clearance for embankments, drainage sluices, pumps and other components added after the original clearance was granted. These additions are mostly intended to prevent the submergence in the neighbouring States.

Widespread charges

There have been widespread allegations that Mr. Ramesh's “activist” stance on strictly implementing environmental laws is designed to throttle major projects in non-Congress ruled States.

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been especially vocal after the Vedanta and Posco projects ran into green obstacles, even while the Polavaram project got a nod, despite concerns about submergence of forests and tribal land. Not only is Andhra Pradesh ruled by a Congress government, but it is also the State that Mr. Ramesh represents in Parliament.

Letter to A.P.

MoEF has now written to the Andhra Pradesh irrigation Department, asking why no public hearing has been held in Orissa and Chhattisgarh, despite written directions over one-and-a-half years ago in March 2009. It has also been asked why a formal show-cause should not be issued against the project for the lack of a clearance for the additional components.

The State government has been given ten days to submit its reply.