MoEF asked to declare Statue of Unity project illegal and stop construction
Protesting against the construction of Statue of Unity project in Gujarat, a group of activists on Thursday wrote to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), saying the project should be stopped. Concerned Citizens, a network of activists and individuals, alleged that construction of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s much-talked-about project has begun without any environmental clearance, assessment or consultation.
The proposed 182-metre-high iron and bronze statue of India's first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, once constructed, will become the world’s tallest statue. The foundation stone of the Rs 2,063-crore-project, which will comprise a memorial park and a water body as well, was laid by Modi and senior BJP leader L K Advani on October 31. The project is expected to be completed in four years.
The statue, being built near the Sardar Sarovar Dam downstream of the Narmada river, is just 3.2 km from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. The memorial site would be built on a river island called Sadhu-Bet, approximately 3.5 km south of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia, in Narmada district of Gujarat. Proposed to be erected in the river bed downstream of the main Garudeshwar Weir, the statue will also have a permanent water pool with boats.
In their letter addressed to the environment secretary, the activists have mentioned that the project is illegal and violates the Environment Protection Act, 1986; environmental impact assessment (EIA) notification of September 2006 and a few orders given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and other courts.
‘Not just a memorial’
The project is a joint-venture of Gujarat government and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET). The website of Statue of Unity says “the monument will not just be a memorial, but a completely functional, purpose-serving tribute that will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas and will involve huge infrastructure.” It adds: “A 13 km long water body (pond) will create an excellent tourist spot with available infrastructure on both the banks."
The Concerned Citizens group has demanded that the Gujarat government should be directed to submit an application, seeking environment clearance. They have also asked the ministry to declare the project as “illegal” and not allow any further construction till the permission is granted.
• Needs environment clearance under the EIA notification of September 2006, but has not applied for or obtained any clearance
• The statute is only 3.2 km from the Sardar Sarovar Dam and is near Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary
• Project involves construction in the river bed and the proposed reservoir, close to sanctuary in eco-sensitive zone, and hence will have serious impact on both ecology and environment
• The project will affect the downstream river, its biodiversity, people and livelihoods
• No public consultation has been sought for the project
• Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability and safety
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