Environment ministry move follows report pointing to flouting of environmental rules and its impact on the region
The ministry of environment and forests has issued a show cause notice to the developer of Adani Port and SEZ at Mundra for violating green regulations in the region in Gujarat. The show cause notice, issued on September 30 under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, follows a report by a five-member committee headed by Sunita Narain, director general of the Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment.
The committee's report pointed out severe environmental degradation in and around the project site and non-compliance with environmental clearance conditions by the Adani group. The Union minister of state for environment and forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, approved the report early September this year.
Order to restore mangroves
The notice proposes to cancel the clearance to the proposed north port if the reply to the notice (deadline:15 days) proves unsatisfactory (The area will have four ports (west, south, north, and east ports, of which two—the west port and south port—already exist.) The show cause has also demanded the company restore the north port site and Bocha island area to the pre-2005 status with creeks and mangroves within six months. Using remote sensing technology, the committee had earlier found that over the past decade 75 hectares of mangroves have been destroyed in Bocha island, a conservation zone declared by MoEF as per environmental clearance granted in January 2009. Satellite images showed deterioration and loss of creeks near the proposed north port because of construction activities. For this reason, the committee recommended revoking the clearance granted to the north port.
Besides, the show cause notice has also asked the company to submit the geological co-ordinates of different components of the project, prepare a livelihood plan for the fishing community in the area within six months, return gauchar/common village land to the community and submit a disaster management plan. It also says the developer will have to pay Rs 200 crore for environment restoration fund as a penalty for violating the environmental laws and conditions of environment clearance.
The money would be utilised by the ministry for protection of marine ecology, conservation of mangroves, restoration of creeks, for conducting independent research studies like cumulative impact assessment study, for public disclosure of data and to support the fishing community in the area.
Some major concerns
The show cause notice, however, does not address certain important recommendations of the report. Salinity ingress, for instance, was identified as a major problem in the area, and to control this, the committee proposed lining of water intake and outfall channels of Adanis' power plant and desalination plant. The committee also recommended changes in the project's post clearance monitoring system and also mentioned controversies in the Sterling/Samudra townships. “It is difficult with the available reports to reconcile whether Samudra/Sterling Township has been constructed in violation of the coastal zone regulations, hence it recommended the ministry verify the same with accurate data,” the report states.
The question whether Samudra/Sterling Township requires a coastal zone clearance arose because of confusion over high tide line and low tide line (HTL/LTL) demarcation system in the country.
The committee recommended an urgent review of the functioning and scientific protocols used by the agencies authorised by MoEF to undertake CRZ demarcation. HTL/LTL are lines based on coastal regulation zone clearances granted to different projects. The committee headed by Narain strongly opposed the current practice of coastal zone map demarcations and asked the ministry to evolve system of state level demarcations of HTL/LTL at 1:4,000 scale and advised the demarcated maps to be put out in the public domain to ensure transparency and guidance for various stakeholders in future coastal zone clearance process.
Major concerns which were brought out in the report are yet to be addressed.
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