Govt forest panel says environment impact assessment not needed for wind power projects
The project requires diversion of 55.73 hectares of forest land in Andhra Pradesh's Ramagiri in order to establish a 40MW wind power project.
Based on a single contested study of migratory birds, the government’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) approved a 40 MW wind power project in Andhra Pradesh, despite the environment ministry batting for an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
According to a news report by Mint, the FAC said that an EIA was unnecessary for wind power projects.
Incidentally, this was not the first instance of the FAC approving a wind power project despite objections. In June, the FAC gave its nod to clearing 297.38 hectares of forest land in the Kutch district of Gujarat for a 400MW wind power project, despite objections that it posed a threat to bats, and migratory birds that visit the area in winters.
The current project was discussed by the FAC in a meeting held on August 17, the minutes of which were reviewed by Mint. The project requires diversion of 55.73 hectares of forest land in Andhra Pradesh's Ramagiri in order to establish a 40MW wind power project.
The project was first referred to the FAC in 2012 but had so far failed to get approval despite meetings held by the panel on four different occasions over the last five years.
In 2012, the FAC asked for a report assessing the impact of the project on wildlife, particularly raptors and birds, along with recommendations to prevent or reduce the impact. However, no study was ever conducted by the expert bodies suggested by the FAC.
Finally, in December last year, the FAC considered a study conducted on the subject by Krishnadevaraya University, but this was later considered a “substandard study” by FAC panel member Deepak Apte.
In its March meeting, the FAC asked the environment ministry's wildlife division to study Apte's argument and recommend adequate preventive measures, which would be binding on whoever proposed the project.
However, the wildlife division recommended an EIA of the proposed wind turbines by SACON (Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History).
The FAC then rejected the wildlife division's suggestion and instead noted that they feel that an EIA “as recommended by wildlife division is not required for wind energy projects which produce green energy”, and recommended it for an in-principle approval.
The panel also accepted the "substandard study" by Krishnadevaraya university and turned a blind eye towards Apte's perspective.“The user agency shall also take all mitigation measures to avoid casualties of raptors/birds/bats due to network of overhead power cables in consultation with institution having expertise on the subject and as recommended by the State forest and wildlife department from time to time,” the FAC said.