Thursday, November 12, 2009

Metro ignored the impact on environment

Metro ignored the impact on environment

Greens plan to file petition with the Union environment ministry on November 25

Bosky Khanna

Over the past couple of years, many accidents have occurred near the Metro site which could have been averted had an environment impact assessment (EIA) report been prepared prior to its commencement. Environment Support Group member Leo F Saldanha talks to Bosky Khanna on the petition the group is going to submit to the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) this month and how EIA still can help Bangalore Metro avoid disasters.

When will the petition be submitted to the Union ministry of environment and why now? You are also planning an online petition. Why?
The petition will be submitted to Jairam Ramesh, union minister of state for environment and forests, on November 25. Since time is limited, we want to generate people's opinion through the online petition.
Today only three cities have Metro, but 40 more are applying for it. As there is going to be a mega project boom, it needs careful study. In draft EIA notification of September 15 2005 issued by the ministry, Metro was included among 30 projects. But based on Delhi Metro MD E Sreedharan's opinion, Metro was dropped off the list saying it would not have any significant environmental and social impact. Thus Bangalore Metro does not have an EIA. What they claim to be an EIA is an apology for EIA produced by Bangalore University. The facts presented there are incorrect and public spaces and social impact assessment has been ignored.

What impact will this have on Bangalore?
Once Metro is built, traffic congestion and pollution will go up. Metro is changing the city's planning rules. It is allowing construction up to four floors in its vicinity. Thus density of population will increase which will impact environment and health.

Will EIA ensure safety to commuters and pedestrians? Will it be helpful now to Bangalore as the project has commenced?
EIA could be of help even now. Occupational safety is a part of EIA. Once EIA is applied, it is in public domain. Everything which is said is public and one can use this in the court of law also. More public responses will be generated and there will be better understanding of the project.

What does EIA basically consist of?
It is a risk assessment analysis. It is also a process where public gets involved in decision making to help avert disasters. A lot can be done if Metro is transparent. For instance, since there is no parking plan at stations, traffic congestion will increase. In EIA, all designs are made public and more consultations are done. It will also assess economic aspects. Here, the metro cost has doubled from the quoted Rs5,300 crore to Rs11,600 crore. This could have been avoided if EIA was done.

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