Nirma's cement plant hits hurdle

Supreme Court asks the industrial house to prove that the plant site is a wasteland

In a setback to Nirma industries, the Supreme Court has asked the company to prove that the land allocated to it in Gujarat to set up a cement plant is wasteland. Otherwise the project should be scrapped, said a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia.

The court said this on September 9 after examining an expert committee report. It noted that the clearance to the plant was given on the wrong premise that it was a wasteland. “Please show that it is a wasteland or it [cement plant] is gone,” the bench said.

The proposed Rs 600-crore cement plant is being built on a waterbody in Mahuva block in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. Its projected capacity is 1.91 million tonnes of cement per annum.

The expert committee headed by C R Babu, former pro-vice chancellor of Delhi University, has noted in its report, “the proposed plant would bring changes in the ecology of the waterbody”. It also stated that the land was not a wasteland, as claimed by the Gujarat government, while giving nod to the plant in 2008. The report was placed before the court by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which also filed an affidavit supporting the findings of the committee.

The report noted that the cement factory which will be based on a coal thermal power plant and coke oven plant, would generate emissions and effluents that will damage the ecology and agriculture in the area. “The limestone mining in 3,460 hectares, the bulk of which is a crop area, will lead to creation of dumps which may result in reduction in the catchment area and possible salinity ingression," the report said. The report also stated that the area is agriculturally very important as it produces six per cent of total onions in India.

The committee further said that the Mahuva block harbours Asiatic lions which were spotted in and around the waterbody area. “In fact, there is a reserve forest within 10 km radius of the site. Two critically endangered vulture species and many other globally threatened bird species are seen around the bandhara (waterbody),” the report noted.

Nirma, on the other hand, contended that the company has been working on the project for the past three years and has invested Rs 150 crore. It was also committed to pump in another Rs 450 crore.

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