Falling on deaf ears

the system of public hearing is turning out to be a farce in Gujarat. In 1994, the Union ministry of environment and forests made Environmental Public Hearing mandatory for 29 industries listed in Schedule 1 of the 1986 Environment (Protection) Act before establishment and expansion of the industry. A committee is set up in every district comprising representatives of the various government departments and three eminent persons from the district and is chaired by the district collector. The industry presents its view and this is followed by a question and answer session. All this looks transparent but it is not so. Barring a few exception, the whole system seems hollow and ineffective. The reports of the proceedings are called "confidential documents' and people are never given access to the minutes of the meeting. It is called an "official secret'. Once the hearing is over, the local people are not made aware of the approval, says Mahesh Pandya of the Ahmedabad-based Centre for Social Justice.

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