NGT Quashed the Environmental Clearance of Welspun Energy’s 1320 MW Mirzapur Thermal Power Plant, questions the credibility of EIA Process
इस खबर/लेख का हिंदी संस्करण पढने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें
New Delhi. Delivering the final judgment in an appeal filed by Vindhya Bachao members challenging the Environmental Clearance of 1320 MW coal based thermal power plant granted to Welspun Energy (U.P.) Private Limited, the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal quashed the Environmental Clearance granted by Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change to M/s Welspun Energy (U.P.) Pvt. Ltd.. In addition to it, the court also asked the company to restore the project area to its original condition.
The order granting environmental clearance of 21st August, 2014 was challenged by the members of Vindhya Bachao, Debadityo Sinha, Shiva Kumar Upadhyaya and Mukesh Kumar and was argued by Advocate Parul Gupta.
Justice U.D. Salvi and Expert Member Ranjan Chatterji presided over the bench which pronounced the judgment on 21st December, 2016 which was uploaded on NGT website on evening of 22nd December, 2016.
Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan (VBA) opposed the selection of the project site and raised several concerns before the
Ministry of Environment & Forests through repeated representations much before the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry recommended the project for Environmental Clearance.
VBA has raised serious allegations against the project proponent over concealment of factual data & providing false information in EIA report, unlawful conduct of Public Hearing and substantially overlooking the mandatory procedures of EIA Notification, 2006 which was ignored by Ministry of Environment & Forests and other state agencies. VBA also submitted documents to support that the project involves a significant forest area and is important habitat of several Scheduled I animals including Sloth Bear, Leopard, Chinkara, Blackbuck etc. the information which was deliberately suppressed right from the beginning by the project proponent till preparation of final EIA report. Concerns were also raised by Registrar and students of Banaras Hindu University’s Mirzapur campus which is located just 7.5 km from the project site and demanded the government to shift the project location citing serious environmental concerns including the impacts on drinking water source of the campus.
NGT in its judgment has given the following important observations:
- ….even the smallest lapse in furnishing the information or data material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application would leave lasting effects possibly adverse impacts on the environment or sustainable development, if information or data is misleading. (Para 35)
- Undoubtedly, the approach road, rail line and water line have to pass through forest lands, and these being material components of the project, the Project Proponent ought to have revealed the involvement of the forest land, in Form-filled for the purposes of getting EC. (Para 48)
- As observed above the proposal for grant of EC involves forest land. It is therefore, not correct to submit that the forest clearance is not a criteria for grant of EC under the EIA Notification. (Para 49)
- From the facts noticed herein above, it is evident that the project is surrounded by forest and involves ‘Parti Bhumi’(fallow land) thereby signifying least anthropogenic activity at or around the project site and, thus the issue of wildlife in the area deserves serious consideration. …………Facts revealed before us do not show that any member of the EAC or Expert member of WII conducted any site visit of the project to assess the gravity of exception taken to the project upon the issues raised in relation to the forest and wildlife. Appraisal of the project in this regard, therefore, becomes questionable. (Para 50)
- According to Learned Counsel appearing for the appellants both competetive use of water from river Ganga and upper khajuri reservoir and its cumulative impact on upstream and downstream have not been discussed in the EIA report. We do find substance in the submission made. (Para 53)
- ....as regards the conduct of the public hearing itself the videography has revealed the presence of gun toting men amongst the members attending the public hearing…………...Assuming this to be true it was necessary for policemen on duty to have dis-armed them before they entered the venue of the public hearing. Arms like guns are bound to strike fear in the hearts of men around and dominate their free will. It is, therefore, difficult to call this public hearing as a free and fairly conducted public hearing. (Para 59)
- Cumulatively, therefore, the entire process of consideration and appraisal of the proposal to grant EC is found tainted so as to render it less credit worthy than the one expected by law and as such makes it even more difficult to suggest the safeguards in order to render the project sustainable one. (Para 61)
“NGT has specifically pointed out the necessity of furnishing true, correct and complete information by project proponents for obtaining Environment Clearance and has also questioned the conduct of the Regulatory Authority which has to ensure fair, free and transparent appraisal of the EC applications”, said Advocate Parul Gupta, who argued the matter.
“We are very happy with the judgment, but it is also highly unfortunate that in all such cases legal battle is fought against the same regulatory authority which is morally and legally obliged to be the saviour of the environment. The judgment draws a very big question on the credibility of the functioning of Ministry of Environment & Forests which has now become a rubber stamp authority”, said Debadityo Sinha, of Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan and the petitioner in the case.
“The site selection for this project has been completely wrong since the beginning and the manner in which the permissions were granted to this project was itself highly controversial. No one agreed to listen to our concerns and therefore we had to knock the doors of court. We welcome the judgment of the Tribunal.”, said Shiva Kumar Upadhyaya, a senior journalist and member of Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan who was also co-petitioner in the matter.
“We are happy that the biodiversity and the environment of this area will be preserved. The decision to ask the project company to restore the area is worth appreciating”, said Mukesh Kumar, who represented students of Banaras Hindu University as co-petitioner.
Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan wishes to thank our members Dr. Laxmi Goparaju, Shishir Kumar, Preeta Dhar, Raghav Saraswat, Shekhar Jain, Pankaj Kumar, Vikas Yadav and students of Rajiv Gandhi South Campus, faculty and staff of Institute of Environment & Sustainable Development (Banaras Hindu University) and all others for their good wishes and support.
For copy of judgment, photographs, documents, reports and previous orders go to www.vindhyabachao.org/welspun
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Tags: Welspun Energy, Coal & Thermal Power, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Forest, Campaign, Ganges, Litigation, National Green Tribunal, Biodiversity & Wildlife, Uttar Pradesh, Press Release, Youth Mobilization