Fate of Nanjundapuram Road STP raises questions on accountability

The civic body has already spent Rs. 20 crore on the project

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s (TNPCB) Appellate Authority’s order of setting aside the consent TNPCB gave to the Coimbatore Corporation to establish the sewage treatment plant (STP) on Nanjundapuram road, has raised questions of accountability.

The Appellate Authority passed an order on August 25, 2015. It was on an appeal preferred by the Parsn Senior Citizens Group and the Mayflower Sakthi Garden Owners’ Association that the TNPCB seemed to have been influenced by the fact that the Coimbatore Corporation had spent huge amounts of money towards constructing the STP.

The Authority also said that the TNPCB could not take a risk in a case that involved public health by relaxing the distance criterion. It should have looked into the fact that the STP came under the red category (most polluting) and that it was coming up in a zone that was classified as mixed residential area before giving the consent.

This order, in effect, puts a full stop to the Corporation’s efforts in completing the works at the Nanjundapuram Road STP which will complete the underground drainage project.

The UGD project was taken up at a cost of over Rs 400 crore with funds from the Central and State Governments. The Corporation had earmarked Rs. 32.22 crore to complete the STP. It has already spent around Rs. 20 crore. This order has raised the question: Who is accountable for the public money that has been spent on the STP?

If the higher judicial bodies were to uphold this order, it means that the Rs. 20 crore or so that was spent on the STP will go down the drain, says K. Kathirmathiyon, Secretary, Coimbatore Consumer Cause. And, somebody has to be accountable for the decision because the civic body took up the work in violation of the rules.

Just like the way Corporation lost money in constructing the tenements in Ammankulam and Ukkadam. Due to structural instability, a few floors had to be demolished even before they were occupied.

It is because of this lack of accountability that the officials are able to get away with wrong decisions, he says.

Mr. Kathirmathiyon adds that the order also raises the other important question of the civic body not following the very rules that it reads out to others.

In this case, the civic body had taken up STP construction in a mixed residential zone. Would it have approved if some individual or organisation had done the same thing?

Meanwhile, sources in the civic body said that in anticipation of the Appellate Authority’s order, it moved the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP). It moved the SLP in April-May this year and was in the process of serving notices on those who opposed the construction of the STP.

Once the legal formalities are complete, the civic body will explain its position to the court, the steps it has taken and will take to ensure that it stands vindicated to resume the STP construction.

The sources also said that even if the Corporation were to get an adverse ruling from the top most court, the city’s underground drainage network would not collapse because of the Nanjundapuram Road STP because the civic body would be able to lay underground pipelines to take the sewage to the Ondipudur STP or to the sewage farm at Vellalore.

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