25 projects penalised for non-complianceThe Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE) has penalised 25 projects, including six in the last fiscal year, for not abiding by the mandatory provisions related to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE) has penalised 25 projects, including six in the last fiscal year, for not abiding by the mandatory provisions related to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The majority of these defaulters have been medical colleges and hospitals running in different parts of the country. According to the ministry, 15 of the 25 penalised projects included hospitals and medical colleges.
In last fiscal year alone, Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital, Nepalgunj; Nepalgunj Medical College, Kohalpur; Dhulikhel Hospital; Manmohan Memorial Medical College and Teaching Hospital, Kathmandu; Nepali Medical College, Gokarneshwor and Hotel Shanker Pvt Ltd, Lazimpat were each slapped with a fine of Rs. 100,000—a maximum penalty amount—for violating the act. Jwala Shrestha, chief of Environment Impact Assessment Section under the MoPE, said many of them were found operating without getting their EIA study approved from the ministry.
“These organisations were found operating even before their EIA reports were approved,” said Shrestha. They were fined and subsequently brought into the EIA compliance process. However, only 15 of such projects have got their EIA approved from the MoPE so far. Others are still undergoing the procedures. “Most of them have since completed their EIA reports and submitted to us. However, during the evaluation process we had found out that they were already running their operations even before we could grant them approval, so we had fined them,” said Shrestha.
Since the EIA study was made mandatory in Environment Protection Act 1997, a of total 293 projects have been approved by the ministry.
Madhukar Upadhyay, an expert on watershed management, said that the practice of conducting the EIA had started in as early as 1980s.
“There was a project funded by USAID in the early 1980s called ‘Vaatavaran Prabhav Adhyayan Aayojana’ (Environment Impact Study Project). The project ended in a few years, but talks about the EIA began taking roots in the late 1980s. The act came much later to make the EIA mandatory for big projects,” explained Upadhya.
“Even after the act, people have made mockery of the provision by just doing it to complete the legal formalities. Before that, the EIA was limited to some projects funded by donors as the study was mandatory for the fund release.”
Urban planner Suman Maher Shrestha insists that the EIA report should be made pre-requisite for any major construction rather than just a paperwork. “This is not something to be ignored and completed later. The EIA study should be the first priority for any project. It will recommend certain measures for environmental protection. These recommendations will rather help the project once they are incorporated in design,” said Shrestha, warning that carrying out any major construction without EIA study is “tantamount to destruction in the name of development”.
“Such medical colleges and hospitals should serve as a role model for minimising effects to environment. Instead, they have been found ignoring environmental impact which is ultimately going to affect the public, who will come to these hospitals for treatment,” he said.
These projects were penalised only when they came to the ministry, asking for an approval, which indicates there might be many others running without EIA approval. The Department of Environment also conducts regular monitoring for compliance of EIA guidelines.
Experts believe conducting the EIA study is a must as it estimates possible environmental effect due to projects and working on to minimise them.
Warning that projects without EIA approval could have a serious impact on environment and health of the public living in the surrounding environment, environmentalist Nawaraj Khatiwada, said: “EIA not only measures the environmental impact, but also helps mitigate risks.”
He suggests that the concerned authority press the rule violators to work on minimising possible threats, which are likely in the absence of EIA study.
Under the provisions of the act, the EIA approval is mandatory for hospitals or nursing homes with more than 100 beds and medical colleges before starting their operations. Likewise, an EIA approval is must for any proposal of establishing and operating of hotels with a capacity exceeding 100 beds, residential and commercial buildings with a built up area or floor area spanning over 10,000 sq metres. In the fiscal year 2016/17, total 32 projects EIA, including five penalised projects — Hotel Le Sherpa, Hotel Akama, Charapala Community Forest, Norvic International Hospital and Manmohan Memorial Medical College and Teaching Hospital — were approved .