National Green Tribunal gives its nod but asks State to ensure protection of environment

The issue of setting up a hospital at the complex in Omandurar Government Estate, mired in legal tangles, was finally settled on Wednesday.

The National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, gave its nod to the setting up of a multi-superspecialty hospital on the premises.

Delivering its judgement, running to 90 pages, on an appeal filed by an advocate against the environmental clearance (EC) given for the conversion of the Secretariat complex built during the previous DMK regime into a hospital, the Bench said: “The Tribunal has to strike a balance between the implementation of the project, namely multi-superspecialty hospital, in public interest, which would satisfy the medical needs of the poverty-stricken and downtrodden and that too free of cost, on the one side and the environment impact that is likely to be caused by the functioning of the said hospital on the other. It is also not necessary to quash the EC granted for the conversion which would defeat a noble cause to serve public interest.”

Disposing of the appeal filed by the advocate R. Veeramani, the Bench, comprising its judicial member, Justice M. Chockalingam and expert member, R. Nagendran, said: after considering both sides, the Tribunal was of the opinion that it would suffice to impose necessary conditions to be complied with by the government before commissioning hospital activities, in order to satisfy the necessary parameters and safeguards to run a multi-superspecialty hospital.

The Tribunal also pointed out that in the modified EC dated May16 2012, the State-level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority had imposed several conditions.

The Tribunal also directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to include mandatory conditions which were to be strictly and fully complied with by the government, to get the ‘consent to operate’ for the hospital.

“The hospital should take proactive steps in protecting the environmental quality even as they provide superspecialty medical service to the public”, the Bench added.

Rejecting a submission that a second clearance should not be given, the Tribunal said, “The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 or any environmental law does not bar or prohibit the conversion or change of utility of any building for which environmental clearance was already obtained. It is also pertinent to note that the intention of the erstwhile government was that the complex can be used for any other purpose or activity, which is quite evident from the EC dated October 20, 2008, giving liberty to the government to come for modification in case of change in activity.”

CM hails decision

Referring to the Tribunal’s decision, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said this was yet another victory for her government. “It is a red-letter day for me,” she said. Meanwhile, the Public Works Department began work at the complex to convert it. Officials said that it would take eight months for the work, worth Rs. 26.9 crore, to be completed.