CIC tells centre to give Polavaram project info to RTI applicant

Central Information Commission also issued a show cause to environment ministry's public information officer H.C.Choudhury for not providing information to RTI applicant D.S.Kumar

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has asked the environment ministry to provide all information regarding the Indira Sagar Polavaram Project, an interstate project on the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh, sought in an RTI plea within a month.

In its order dated 18 September, it also issued a show cause notice to the ministry’s public information officer (PIO) H.C. Choudhury for not providing information to RTI applicant D.S. Kumar. Choudhury is also the deputy inspector general of forests at the ministry.

The 20,000 crore project, which got national status in 2009, is a multipurpose reservoir project for the development of irrigation, hydropower and drinking water facilities in East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The reservoir will have an installed capacity of 960 megawatts, is expected to irrigate over 1 million acres and provide 540 villages with drinking water facilities in the command area.

However, Odisha, Telangana and Chhattisgarh have objected to the project, stating that it would result in the large-scale displacement of tribals and the inundation of many villages.

D.S. Kumar in October 2014 sought information from the ministry on forest clearance for the project. He also sought detailed information, including site visit reports filed by senior ministry officials, on complaints from the affected villages, about non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

But the application was rejected in December 2014, forcing Kumar to move the CIC.

In its order, the CIC criticized the ministry for functioning under British era forest laws that are against forest dwellers in India.

“It is surprising that some PIOs and other officers of the Ministry of Forests & Environment are not implementing the right to information of the tribals and others in forests guaranteed by legislations and continuing their functioning under pre-Independence laws which did not serve interests of forest dwellers and thus denying their rights both under Forest-related laws and RTI," said information commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu in his order.

A case regarding the Polavaram project is also being heard by the National Green Tribunal.

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