THE Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has asked detergent company Nirma to explain why the environmental clearance granted to its cement plant in Gujarat should not be revoked. The ministry issued a show cause notice to the company on May 11 after a report by a group of experts showed the plant was violating environmental norms.
The report by the Expert Body, constituted by the ministry on the behest of the Supreme Court, classified the project site in Mahuva block of the state’s Bhavnagar district as a wetland. It found that the project lies within the catchment area of a reservoir, Samadhiala. The wetland helps recharge groundwater, says the report. Species of endangered vultures are found around Samadhiala. A forest reserve, which has many other threatened bird species, is within 10 km of the site. Mahuva block is also home to Asiatic Lions, says the report. The body recommended relocation of the project site. The plant was granted clearance in December 2008.
The notice, served under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, gives Nirma two weeks to respond. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kanubhai Kalasaria, who led the fight against the project, says, “Now everyone knows it is a wetland.” (See ‘Nirma whitewash’, Down To Earth, February 16-28, 2011.) The court should endorse the body’s recommendation, he adds.
The report by the body was discussed by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the ministry in a meeting held on May 5. Representatives of the state government present in the meeting insisted the project site is a wasteland. The committee dismissed the claim, recommending revoking of the clearance accorded to the plant since it was based on undisclosed and incorrect information.
The case whether the project site is in wetland or wasteland is pending in the apex court since last year. During the last hearing of the case on March 18, Nirma counsel Dushyant Dave had appealed to the court to allow the company to take up the matter in the yet-to-become-functional National Green Tribunal.
Rajiv Dhawan, counsel for the Mahuva Bandhara Khetiwadi Paryavaran Bachav Samiti, says there is no question of going to the tribunal till the ministry finishes the procedure of the notice. On May 10, the court said it will give judgement on the case once the process involving the notice concludes.
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