Pune: The Western Ghat Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) on Thursday inspected the Andhra Lake Wind Power Project promoted by Enercon India Ltd. (EIL) for environmental impact assessment at a time when local activists had alleged environmental violations.
The company, through its Rs. 772-crore project, plans to erect 445 wind turbines in the Khed-Maval belt of Pune district. However, local activists alleged that the company cut trees beyond the permitted level while building the approach road.
Panel chairman Madhav Gadgil told The Hindu that the visit had been productive. The panel members measured the area where the company had cut trees.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests had allowed the company to cut 26,615 trees, a number that had already been surpassed by EIL, alleged activist Vishwambar Choudhari. Enercon India Ltd. had refuted the charges saying: “it has all the necessary clearances for the project.”
According to Mr. Gadgil, “certainly there are some issues that need to be raised. Greater care of the environment should be taken. We will be emphasising on the observations of this specific project in the report that will be given to the MoEF by June end. The issue of whether wind energy projects should be exempted from Environmental Impact Assessments at all, the way it is being done now, will be brought up in the report.”
This site visit would help in setting precedent for a shift in the policy for non-conventional energy generation in the country, he said.
During the panel’s visit, the activists and the EIL officials put forth their sides to the WGEEP members.
“The panel visit was basically for the purpose of a case study. It had nothing to do with the alleged violations,” an EIL official told The Hindu.
Citing environmental violations, local activists had filed a PIL in the Bombay high Court against Enercon India Ltd. On December 16, the High Court had stayed tree-cutting work being carried out by EIL. However, after the Forest Department and the EIL submitted relevant documents, the stay was vacated on December 23, 2010.
According to Chief Conservator of Forests, A.K. Sinha, the company was asked to cut only those trees which had been marked by the Forest Department.
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