On march 26, the Gujarat High Court gave detergent manufacturer Nirma the go-ahead to set up its cement plant in Padhiyarka village in Bhavnagar district.
The court said the plant would provide much-needed employment opportunities in the semi-arid region of Bhav-nagar, but it should not be done at the cost of the environment. The company must not pollute the reservoir on which farmers depend for irrigation, the court added.
Farmers of the region, protesting the company’s proposed cement plant and limestone mine in the Mahuva block, said that 222 hectares (ha) of the 268 ha allotted to the company by the state government is a natural reservoir and its catchment area (see ‘Farmers demand concrete action, Down To Earth, March 16-31, 2010). In their petition, the farmers said that the cement plant would pollute the Samadhiyala Bandhara reservoir and obstruct channels connecting the catchment area with the reservoir. In response, the court asked the Gujarat government to track whether the cement plant would cause any water shortage in the reservoir. If so, the company would have to take remedial measures, the verdict said.
The court also asked the company to return 46 ha to the farmers. This is in addition to the 54 ha the company returned to the farmers voluntarily.
The 100 ha returned to them might not be of any use because the cement plant and the mine area surround it, said Anand Yagnik, counsel for bjp mla Kanubhai Kalsariya who is fighting for the farmers’ rights. Unhappy with the verdict, farmers now plan to move the Supreme Court.
Farmers also sought the resignation of Kamal Trivedi, Gujarat’s advocate general, who, they say, had given an opinion on the land allotment to the state government—it allotted over 3,000 ha to Nirma for mining in the Bhavnagar coast (see ‘Land goes to industry, Down To Earth, July 1-15, 2009). Nirma is a client of Trivedi’s law firm and this is a clear case of conflict of interest, said Kalsariya. Trivedi should have refused to give opinion in the matter, he added.
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