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AUG 29, 2000

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Copycat dam study puts Ernst & Young in a spot

An environmental assessment study for an Indian dam project has been found to be almost totally copied from a study for another dam project


NEW DELHI -- A small power project in south India may prove to be a major embarrassment for the international consultancy firm Ernst & Young and the investment-hungry state government of Karnataka.

Ernst & Young is under scrutiny from environmental groups which have shown that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for an 18 billion rupee (S$666 million), 20 megawatt hydro-electric project at Dandeli, which would destroy 87 hectares of prime forests, was almost totally plagiarised from another such study in a different area.

Sixty of the 65 pages from the EIA of the Tattihalla Augmentation Scheme, a state government project, were reproduced verbatim in the EIA for the Dandeli project.

An open letter from several prominent environmental groups states: ""Two completely different rivers to be dammed. Two completely different types of dams. Two completely different forest types to be submerged. And two completely different locations.

""Yet the rapid environment impact assessments for both proposed projects are identical. Word for word, para to para, section to section, and, except for a few minor differences, the villages, the species, the climatalogical data, the water and soil analysis, the sampling stations, are all absolutely the same.''

The letter is addressed to the state's Chief Minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, and other key government officials in Bangalore and New Delhi.

Ernst & Young bills itself as ""one of the largest professional services firms in India with a strength of a thousand dedicated people working from seven metro cities''.

The company responded to queries from the daily Indian Express by saying the two projects were only 10 km apart and the mistake the company may have made was not to attribute the data.

""The data may not be radically at variance with each other'' since the studies were done at a macro level, said Mr Sudipto Das, director of environmental services at Ernst & Young.

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