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5-member panel to submit report by Jan 31

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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Thursday expressed anger over the Minister for Environment and Forest (MoEF) for including three State government officials in the expert committee constituted to conduct a comprehensive survey on the alleged illegal excavation work at Rishikonda hill in Visakhapatnam for construction of guest houses.

A High Court division bench headed by CJ Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice N Jayasurya ordered the removal of three State government officials from the panel constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Charging the Union Ministry with colluding with the State government, the bench called for the constitution of a five-member committee of Central experts and asked them to conduct a comprehensive survey of Rishikonda hill. It directed that the committee submit its report by January 31, 2023.

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Ashwini Kumar warned the State government that the Centre would take stringent action if it is proved that there are environmental violations in digging work at Rishikonda hill. He said the Centre had all the right to take action against the State for environmental protection.

The Minister further said, “The committee constituted following the orders of the High Court will examine all aspects of excavation of Rishikonda hills. If there are any violations, we shall take stringent action.”

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