Environment Support Group Parisara Samrakshana Kendra

S-3, Rajashree Apartments, 18/57, Hulemalgi Building, Chowkimath

1st Main Road, S. R. K. Gardens, Sirsi (Uttara Kannada Dt.),

Jayanagar, Bannerghatta Road, Karnataka 581401

Bangalore 560 041. INDIA Tel: 91-8384-25139

Telefax: 91-80-6341977 Fax: 91-8384-27839

Email: esg@bgl.vsnl.net.in Email: appiko@vsnl.com

Website: http://www.altindia.net/esg/index.htm

11 September 2000

PRESS RELEASE

 

Despite Ernst & Young Plagiarised EIA on Dandeli Dam, Government not overruling Public Hearing held

 

"I'm neither denying nor acknowledging these allegations" is how Mr. Kashi Nath Memani, the Ernst & Young Director in New Delhi defended his company last week when the undersigned exposed the wholly fraudulent report that was prepared by the firm for the Dandeli Hydel Dam project. Mr. Memani further stated thus: "We are investigating how this happened. The report was written and submitted in haste. We will be preparing another report and submitting it afresh." He had also stated that "the report was prepared by one employee and was not checked by a supervisor" in an attempt to suggest that his company is not at fault, but an individual alone and proceeded to claim lost ethical ground by sharing that the individual had resigned owning moral responsibility.

Mr. Memani's statements are contradicted by his Environmental Division Chief Mr. Sudipto Das, for Das had stated in the Indian Express dated 27 August 2000, that the mistake only was of "not attributing the source of the data". This in a desperate attempt to suggest that were this done, then every other act of plagiarising, including showing the geographical location and ecological information of Dandeli as being in the place of Tattihalla Augmentation Scheme, over 100 kms. away, is justifiable.

 

These muddled reactions of Ernst & Young apart, the more shocking fact is that the Government has not taken any action on this worst case of fraud in environmental decision making history in India, despite bringing this to their notice through detailed representations. On the contrary, the decision to hold the Public Hearing on 21 August 2000 on the Dam project, on the basis of Ernst & Young's fraud report, was a decision that was entirely in contradiction to set norms of according clearances, as certain orders of the State reveal.

 

For in an order No. FEE 142 ECO 2000 (P) dated July 5th 2000, the Dept. of Forest, Ecology and Environment has clearly instructed the project developer, M/s Murdeshwar Power Corporation Ltd., that an Environment Impact Assessment and Public Hearing on the project was required per the Central EIA Notification. Even this direction seems to have preceded the 10 July 2000 Order No. EoE 96 NCI 2000 of the Karnataka Government which officially cleared the project with the rider that failure to achieve all clearances within 90 days from that date would abrogate the clearance.

 

When a full environmental clearance was mandated, to have issued such an order would imply that the Government of Karnataka, in its enthusiasm to seek investments by way of "Global Investors Meet", was effectively endorsing the violation of the environmental clearance process in India for the following reasons:

 

1.      As the project was cleared on July 10th, there could be no EIA before that date. Ernst & Young EIA is dated June 2000.

2.      Even if the work on the EIA was to begin on that very day, considering that the proposed dam is in the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary area, special clearances under the Wildlife Protection Act would have to be secured for the study from the Chief Wildlife Warden.

3.      From this point on, even for the scientifically ludicrous, but legally mandated, "Rapid Environment Impact Assessment" (REIA) study to be completed, would have taken a period of 3 months, and for the Comprehensive EIA a full year.

4.      Further, if the REIA was to be the basis of holding Environmental Public Hearings, an abhorrent short-cut employed in clearance to aid "development", it could only have been held after the study was complete, and thereafter a 30 day public notice issued by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board during which time the document would have to be in public view.

 

On the contrary, the Hearing notice was issued on 21 July 2000, less than a fortnight after the project officially existed on record, i.e. July 10, 2000. Contrast this with Ernst & Young's claim that the study was completed during June 2000, the very month the Chief Minister principally accorded the project clearance as part of the Global Investors Meet held, ironically, on World Environment Day, June 5, 2000.

 

We had exposed the act of plagiarisation by Ernst & Young a week before the Public Hearing date of 21 August 2000. The least that the Government should have done was to investigate our charges, and cancel the hearings. Instead the Hearing was held and in which two officials from Ernst & Young defended the study, even as the original Tattihalla and the plagiarised Dandeli report were produced, terming the latter to have "some irregularities" that "would be corrected".

 

Mr. Memani's confession has come too late, and only when the muck really hit them. His late reaction nevertheless suggests that were the fraud not to have been uncovered, Ernst & Young would have been happier for it. Mr. Sudipto Das' statement to Indian Express and the statements of Ernst & Young officials during the Public Hearing only confirm this strategy. Thus, the entire Ernst & Young system acted to cover up, and not just one individual "in haste" as suggested.

 

Meanwhile, despite the wide attention that the issue has gained, the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada district, where the dam is proposed, has proceeded to finalise the proceedings of the Environmental Public Hearing held and submit it to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board for grant of a No Objection Certificate to the project.

 

To uphold the law, establish high standards for environmental clearances and save valuable forests we reassert our earlier demands that:

 

1.      The Environmental Public Hearing held on 21 August 2000 on the basis of the plagiarised EIA must be declared null and void.

2.      A Judicial Enquiry ordered into the incident to pin responsibility within the Government for allowing this fraud.

3.      Dis-empanel Ernst & Young as EIA Consultant in India.

 

We hope that India's Environment and Forests Minister, Mr. T. R. Baalu, who is arriving in Bangalore today to address a meeting tomorrow on Afforesting India by involving people, will take the desired steps to save Dandeli's forests from Ernst & Young's attempt to deny it even a honest obituary, that EIAs often are.

 

 

 

Leo F. Saldanha/Bhargavi S. Rao Pandurang Hegde/Balachandra Hegde

Environment Support Group Parisara Samrakshana Kendra

Bangalore Sirsi

 

         Both documents mentioned in the Release are with us and could be faxed on request.

         The plagiarised EIA of Ernst & Young for Dandeli compared with the original Tattihalla EIA of ICSEM are online at http://web.estart.com/~esg/