Storm brews as Andhra Pradesh PCB conducts public hearing during curfew
VISAKHAPATNAM: The series of public hearings conducted by Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) during curfew and at the peak of Covid pandemic has raised the eyebrows of environmentalists and rights activists across the State. The hearings were conducted for small-time granite companies of individual entrepreneurs and not that of major manufacturing industries.
On Thursday, the PCB conducted two meetings at Ballikurava village under Prakasam district. One was held at 11 am, which stretched beyond noon and another at 2 pm. The same set of people attended both the meetings, which progressed though curfew began at noon.
Prior to these two meetings, one was held at Lingalavalasa village under Tekkali mandal in Srikakulam district on May 12. The meeting began at 10.30 am. Similarly two meetings were held in Anantapur district on April 28 for mining, gravel and ferro alloys of various private companies. Three meetings were held on April 27 for mining.
“In all 14 public hearings were held in April when Covid-19 was baring its fangs in Andhra Pradesh,’’ said an environmentalist from the city.
He said one public hearing was scheduled for May 26 at Singarayakonda mandal in Prakasam district and it was not known whether the PCB would go ahead with the meeting since the infection is high in the rural areas of Prakasam.
“These meetings held on May 20 were in the knowledge of the district collector and scheduled 40 days ago and except for one objection through email, we received none from any quarters. We have noted down the objections in our meeting,’’ said G Nagi Reddy, environmental engineer of Pollution Control Board, Regional Office, Ongole.
Talking to DC on Friday, Nagi Reddy said 50 people attended the two meetings on Thursday strictly following Covid protocol. The meeting concluded as per procedure.
Superintendent of police Prakasam Siddharth Kausal told DC that he would conduct an inquiry into these meetings, which were held without intimating his office.
Human Rights Forum general secretary and president K Sudha and UG Srinivasulu, respectively, said that PCB officials were mentioning about the September 14 memorandum of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which allows public hearing with less than 100 people. But the memo was issued when the first phase of Covid-19 was weakening out, they alleged.
“It is not just a violation of environmental laws but also a violation of the right to life,’’ the activists said.