Earlier court order halting construction without environment clearance was being ignored
The Gujarat High Court has ordered closure of 12 manufacturing units in the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), located in Mundra area of Kutch district. The court had halted work at the Rs 14,000 crore multi-product SEZ site earlier in May, 2013, stating the SEZ did not obtain environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The units were operating in the SEZ despite the court orders.
The court order was given on a petition filed by Jajubha Bhimsinh Jadeja, resident of Navinal village near Mundra, who had said that construction activities along the coast had resulted in the loss of fish catch, which is affecting fishing communities, and loss of pastoral land in Navinal and surrounding villages. On February 11, 2011, responding to public interest petition filed by Navinal residents, the Gujarat High Court sent a notice to the Adani group and the revenue department of Gujarat for illegally taking over pastoral land, and stayed construction of the SEZ.
The Adani group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with about 22 companies without obtaining environmental clearance. The individual units started construction despite MoEF issuing notices in January, 2011 to the SEZ developer for not just skipping environmental clearance but also Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance. The petition by the Navinal residents shows that 12 units not only developed their units but also imported goods worth Rs 2,086.89 crore in 2010-11 and exported goods worth Rs 302 crore. “Further, the companies also received an import duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore in spite of no environment clearance from MoEF,” said Jadeja in a fresh petition.
On February 14, 2013, Gujarat High Court chief justice, Bhaskar Bhattacharjee, and Justice J B Pardiwala ordered a stay on construction of units of 12 companies in the SEZ. However, Alstom Bharat Forge Power Limited (ABFPL), a joint venture between French energy major Alstom and Bharat Forge, sought relief from the stay imposed on power equipment manufacturing project in APSEZ. On Monday, the same bench dismissed their petitions, while holding that APSEZ violated environmental guidelines by allotting land to individual units in the absence of the mandatory clearance under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.
MoEF told to look into environment clearance
On Monday, the court also directed MoEF to look into environmental clearance again within 30 days after taking into account Gujarat High Court’s observations and recommendations made by five-member committee headed by Sunita Narain, director general of Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Science and Environment.
The Court directed the Union government to take a decision of its own so far as the issue of grant of environmental clearance is concerned considering the position prevailing as of date and also the aspects highlighted in the judgment within a period of 30 days. “While taking into consideration the issue of grant of environmental clearance, it would be open for the Union government to even take into consideration the Sunita Narain Committee report as discussed in our judgment,” the court said.
The Sunita Narain committee report pointed out serious violations in the SEZ, like cutting of mangroves without necessary permission and blocking of creeks in the region. The report also stated that the Adani group has been less than serious about reporting on compliance with the conditions set at the time of clearance.
The Adani group issued a statement in the wake of the latest court order: “It is clarified beyond doubt that none of the berths at Mundra port are affected by this order. The operations at Mundra port are absolutely normal.”
The 12 units which have been asked to shut down are: Alstom Fiber Composites India Pvt Ltd, Aadi Group - Aadi Oil Pvt Ltd, Empezar Logistics Pvt Ltd, Avesta Process Equipment & Modular Avesta Engineering, Ashapura Garments Ltd, Terram Geosynthetics Pvt Ltd, Theramax Ltd (SEZ unit), Skaps Industries, Oilfield Warehouses and Services, Dorf Ketal Speciality Catalyst Pvt Ltd, Anjani Udyog Pvt Ltd and Oriental Carbon Chemicals Ltd.
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