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TNPCB used funds to buy LED lights for Chess Olympiad: RTI

Board used funds meant for pollution control and environment protection: Researcher

TNPCB used funds to buy LED lights for Chess Olympiad: RTI

Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB)

CHENNAI: A researcher of Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) has exposed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) of violating norms by spending funds on non-environmental development work, procuring LED lights for the 44th Chess Olympiad conducted in the city, even as its core functions were proven to be affected reportedly due to lack of adequate staff.

Collating RTI replies provided by TNPCB, A Shankar Prakash, the researcher found out that the funds meant for controlling pollution and safeguarding the environment were diverted for infrastructure spending of the Chess Olympiad.

The researcher also exposed contentious decisions made at the Board meetings to provide financial grants to non-environmental protection works (works not within the mandate of the Board) such as the modernisation of a conference hall, wall paneling, partition works, and related civil works at the Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department office at the Secretariat, apart from installing LED lights and floor lights for the Chess Olympiad.

“Although such a grant is low (around 2 per cent), there should be a clear rationale to justify the use of the Board’s funds for non-environmental protection activities,” the analysis report said. This issue assumes significance as the Board is reportedly not in a position to appoint adequate staff to execute its core duties.

The report revealed that the Board could not grant consent to establish (CTE), consent to operate (CTO) and renewal of consent (RCO) within 45 days as mandated, reportedly due to inadequate staff strength. Between 2017 and 2022, the Board received more than 93,000 applications, but almost all the applications, were returned or refused after 45 days.

“A 45-day time limit has been stipulated as per the norms mentioned in the TNPCB website to process the applications. But none of the applications were processed within the stipulated time,” Shankar Prakash said.

The report also pointed out how appropriate utilisation of funds by the Board is important as it is one of the agencies to provide financial grants to other government departments including Environment, Forest, Municipal Administration, Public Works, Corporations, and Municipalities to undertake environmental protection works. These works involve the eco-restoration of lakes and tanks, massive tree plantation programmes, and the rejuvenation of rivers.

The researcher points that out of the 38 environmental engineer offices in Tamil Nadu, Chennai, Maraimalai Nagar and Nagercoil received the maximum number of complaints about pollution during the period. “This could be attributed to the high number of industries in these areas and the adverse impact on the local population due to pollution,” the report added. This highlights the need for judicious use of the Board’s funds so that the stakeholders benefit, the researcher said.

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