Ms Leena Nandan
Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MEFCC)
Govt of India
Dear Ms Nandan,
I refer to a news report which stated as follows:
“On September 27, the Union Environment Ministry named Janardan Choudhary as one of the seven non-institutional members when it reconstituted the EAC for hydroelectricity and river valley projects on September 27. The first meeting of the reconstituted EAC (hydel) was held on October 17-18. Records show Chaudhary attended the meeting on October 17, the day AGEL’s 1500 mw Tarali Pumping Storage Project in Maharashtra’s Satara came up for consideration. AGEL sought an amendment in the project’s Terms of Reference (ToR) for a revision of the project layout after it realised that the proposed water conductor system passed “just below an existing wind farm” and that construction underground or below the wind turbines foundations would be difficult. After detailed deliberation, the EAC recommended in favour of AGEL”
It appears that Shri Janardhan Chaudhary is Advisor-PSP & Hydro at Adani Green Energy Ltd.
From a reading of the minutes of the 1st meeting of the reconstituted Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) [EC/AGENDA/EAC/756541/10/2023] held on 17th and 18th of October, 2023, disclosed at MEFCC’s website, it is evident that Shri Chaudhary was present during the proceedings and, instead of recusing himself, took part in considering Adani Green’s Tarali pumped storage scheme, which in my view constitutes a clear conflict of interest that raises questions of propriety and credibility of the proceedings.
In principle, MEFCC ought not to have co-opted an expert having an association with any corporate entity involved in appraising projects, as a member of the concerned EAC.
As it is, the Ministry, instead of constituting an independent statutory body for appraising projects, has vitiated the process to some extent by arrogating to itself the responsibility of subjectively nominating members of the EAC and clearing projects under the Environment (Protection) Act [EPA]. Compounding such a serious irregularity, nominating representatives of corporate entities as members of an EAC further vitiates the sanctity of the process.
I request you to consider this carefully and take such measures that will restore credibility to the statutory process under the EPA. Otherwise, I am afraid that MEFCC would be seen by the public as “rubber-stamping” environment clearances which in turn would hurt the public interest.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India