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Friday, March 18, 2011

Show cause issued to M/s Nirma Limited to avoid further damage to the wetland

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A Report by The Hindu

The Ministry of Environment and Forests on Saturday issued a show cause to M/s Nirma Limited for “permanent suspension of work and revocation of the environmental clearance'' regarding their cement plant, coke oven plant and captive power plant near Padhiarka village in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat reports The Hindu in its latest issue.

The paper writes that - the show cause has been issued under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to avoid any further damage to the wetland as recommended by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC). The company was asked to stop the implementation, including construction work, of the project with immediate effect and until further order. “However, the company will be given a personal hearing, if it so desires, on March 16-17.”

As per the report ,the environmental clearance was accorded for the cement plant (cement plant 1.91 MTPA: 1:50 clinker), coke oven plant (1.5 LTPA) and 50 MW captive power plant in December 2008 subject to stipulation of environmental safeguards. In the project proposal submitted to the Ministry, the land was described as wasteland even though the plant was to be built over the Samadhiyala Bhandara (reservoir), which was constructed by the State government in 2000 to check salinity ingress. The construction of this large water body has helped reduce the salinity of the area and improved the recharging of the ground water.

The paper details - while appraising the project, the EAC took cognisance of the issues raised during the public hearing held by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board on September 9, 2008 including the salinity control bund. In the public hearing proceedings, it was recorded that the company would ‘deepen the salinity control bund area to enhance the water storage capacity by 19 per cent' and that the ‘three canals would be constructed for smooth flow of incoming water.' It was surmised by the EAC that these measures would allay all fears regarding salinity, the state of the land—wet or waste—having no bearing on the issue. The environmental clearance was given on this basis.

However, subsequent to the issuance of the clearance, the local people and the non-governmental organisations raised certain concerns regarding its adverse impact. The environmental clearance was challenged in the Gujarat High Court and subsequently, Special Leave Petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court also.

To verify the concerns regarding the impact of the cement plant on the nearby water body, an expert committee was constituted by the Environment Ministry to inspect the plant site and to oversee the implementation of the project by M/s Nirma Limited with reference to the Environmental Impact Assessment report.

The expert committee submitted its report to the Ministry on February 10 this year and the Ministry also received representations from all stakeholders which were put up before the Expert Appraisal Committee (Industry) which received the matter on February 22 and 23. The EAC concluded that in the first instance matters had been withheld, excluded, omitted to be presented or perchance not duly urged by parties concerned in time and proper measure.

“The EAC might have reasonably recommended differently had the facts been placed before it in 2008 without misprision. The EAC does not normally approve [of] diversion of wetland for accommodating industries,” it said.

The special correspondent of the paper reports from Ahmedabad that the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the Environment Ministry's step to “save the massive water body.” CSE Director-General Sunita Narain, who had earlier complained to the Ministry against the cement project, claimed that the company had secured the environmental clearance for the project by misleading the Centre of the land being “barren.”

Keywords: wetland, Nirma, EAC,Gujrat High Court

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