Andhra Pradesh

HRF criticises holding of environmental public hearings during pandemic

The Human Right Forum (HRF) strongly objected to the holding of environmental public hearings across Andhra Pradesh at a time when the pandemic is raging and partial lockdown is in force to break the chain of spread. The members of HRF demanded that the process be immediately stopped.

The AP Pollution Control Board (APPCB) is going ahead and organising public hearings as if it is unaware of the raging pandemic and that thousands of people are succumbing to it. Even during the partial curfew, the PCB went ahead and conducted a public hearing on May 12 at Lingalavalasa village in Tekkali mandal of Srikakulam district, said K. Sudha, HRF’s State general secretary.

U.G. Srinivasulu, HRF State president, pointed out that on Thursday, two public hearings, one at 11 a.m. and one more at 2 p.m., were held at Ballikurava village and mandal headquarters in Prakasam district. The PCB is slated to organise six more public hearings in the districts of Prakasam and Nellore up to June 26. The holding of these public hearings is in violation of norms that are to be adhered to when the partial curfew is under way, he said.

When the PCB officials were asked why these hearings were being held, they contended that they were going by a memo issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC) on September 14 last year which stated that public hearings with not more than 100 persons could be conducted, said Ms. Sudha. According to her, the memo was issued at a time when the first wave of COVID-19 was petering out.

To invoke it now, during a deadly second wave when the virus is clearly more virulent and positive cases and fatalities are very high, is unacceptable, said V.S. Krishna, HRF’s AP & TS coordination committee member.

A public hearing is no wedding event where one can cap the number of people allowed to attend and participate. It is an important democratic exercise wherein people, confronted with potentially destructive developmental projects, get an opportunity to participate and raise objections, seek clarifications and proffer suggestions, he said.

The HRF members said that to conduct public hearings like this is not just against environmental norms and the law, it is also violative of people’s Right to Life. It puts people who might participate at great risk. The PCB has no right to play with the lives of people in this manner, said Mr. Krishna.

They alleged that it is clear that the ongoing pandemic is being used to ram through these public hearings in a highly undemocratic and unlawful manner. These are not genuine public hearings but amount to a farce and they must be immediately stopped, the HRF members said.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 9:46:38 AM |

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