Company fails to satisfactorily answer public queries
The public hearing for Adani’s ship-breaking facility near Mundra West Port in Gujarat’s Kuchchh district ended without the company being able to give comprehensive answers to the queries raised by the project-affected people. Gautam Adani-led Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL) was formerly known as Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
The public hearing for the project started at around 11.30 am and continued till 6.30 pm on July 29. People from four project-affected villages and nearby locations who attended the public hearing at Tunda village in Mundra taluka posed dozens of questions about the project and its impact on the environment. But most of them were disappointed with the kind of answers the company gave.
“We asked them about land reclamation for the project and some other issues like forest destruction. But they said they got permission under the coastal regulations zone (CRZ) notification and that they have already done land reclamation and some other things,” said Bharat Patel of Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Mundra. “We don’t understand why they have mentioned it in EIA as if they are going to do that in future. Their procedures and systems and the impacts they quantify looks weird,” he added. What's more, only residents of four villages of Mundra, Tunda, Zarpara and Navinal were allowed to ask questions, that too only in Gujarati. Many of the village residents opposed the project but whether this has been reflected in the minutes of the meeting will be known only after the document is put in the public domain by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), which organized the public hearing.
The Board’s regional pollution control board officer, J D Priyadarshi, insisted that the public hearing went off well. “More than 500 people attended the hearing. We never blocked anyone from attending. We just took a registry of names of people from the four project affected villages alone. People asked questions about CRZ clearance, general ship yard breaking matters, CRZ approval, land reclamation and noise pollution. The company answered. The process went off peacefully,” he said.
When contacted, Malay Mahadevia, whole time director of Adani group, admitted that few questions were unanswered during the hearing. "But explanations for most of the queries are there in the EIA report. We are making a state of art plant. We are going to adopt new technology to avoid environmental impacts. The eco-friendly plant we are building would serve a role model for the upcoming industries," he said.
The proposed ship recycling facility of Adani will handle ships of light displacement tonnage (LDT)—4,000-16,000 tonnes (avg: 8,500 tonnes) to recover about 300,000 tonnes of materials used in ships. The ship-breaking facility is proposed in the special economic zone of Adani near the West port facility. Previously a committee headed by Sunita Narain of non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, set up by the Union environment ministry to inspect this area, found clear evidence of environmental violations.
According to the minutes of the public hearing, the facility is a part of waterfront development project.
A ship recycling plant will involve breaking of ships and then putting the useful materials of ship like steel and wood into reuse. In addition to steel and other useful materials, ships (particularly older vessels) can contain many dangerous substances like asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This became a major cause of dispute over dismantling of Exxon Valdez at the Alang ship-breaking yard on coastal Gujarat in which the Supreme Court intervened. The court commented that the laws and regulations regarding import of hazardous material for recycling are weak in the country and requires further tightening.
The public hearing was attended by activists as well. Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust, Mumbai-based NGO said, "The consultants and the company were trying to portray their ship recycling facility as a zero waste producing facility because of the new air break technology. But it is not so. Effluents will be generated; asbestos handling is inevitable in a ship recycling facility. We questioned the consultants and the company about the different kind of asbestos the project would generate and how they are going to handle it. They had no answer and the surprising part was even the company officials and consultants had no knowledge on the existence of different kinds of asbestos. The project will definitely affect the surrounding villages and fisher folk."
The Navinal community and other activists who attended the public hearing submitted their concerns in writing to the pollution control board officials at the hearing.They demanded to know what action has been taken on Sunita Narain committee report.
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