The Supreme Court has ordered a new environmental study of the site where detergent company Nirma is setting up a cement plant. The site in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, is believed to be on wetlands.
The March 18 decision came after Nirma moved an appeal in the Gujarat High Court against a show cause notice issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The March 11 notice had ordered Nirma to stop work at the site because it had damaged the wetland. Nirma’s petition, filed on March 14, alleged the order is an attempt by an executive to affect the judiciary since the matter is subjudice in the apex court (see ‘Nirma whitewash’, Down To Earth, February 16-28, 2011).
The High Court rejected the petition, following which the company appealed to the apex court. It too did not grant any relief. The court ordered constitution of another expert committee to visit the site.
Kanubhai Kalsaria, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Mahuva, who has led the protest, says, “We are sure the committee will witness the water body at the site and will be overwhelmed.” Anand Yagnik, counsel for people’s organisation Mahuva Bandhara Khetiwadi Paryavaran Bachav Samiti, concurs, “We are sure the truth will prevail. There is a water body and Nirma has conceded in the apex court that they did not disclose this piece of information.” He adds, “I think the environment ministry will not have many options but to cancel the clearance.”
In its response, Nirma did not give its view on the committee but confirmed it would withdraw the petition from the High Court since MoEF’s show cause notice stands annulled.