Adanis 'flouted' norms in Gujarat

Mangrove forests spread across 75 acres were destroyed and several creeks blocked for building India’s largest private port in Gujarat, an Adani group initiative. This was found by a high-level committee that reviewed the group’s port and special economic zone projects in the state.

The five-member committee, headed by environmentalist Sunita Narain, found ample evidence of the Adani group’s efforts to circumvent statutory procedures for obtaining clearances for the port.

“The public hearing procedure, which is integral to project clearance and helps mitigate many concerns of local people, has also been bypassed on one pretext or another,” said the committee comprising the Union environment ministry officials and the director of the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management in Chennai.

Following complaints from local fishermen and farmers’ organisations that the Mundra port and the SEZ cost several people in coastal Gujarat their livelihood, the ministry had set up a committee to review the project. The committee was tasked with finding out whether the project violated green norms and put fishermen’s livelihood at stake.

The committee studied the Mundra port, which was later renamed “waterfront development,” a 4,620 MW thermal power plant and the SEZ. The thermal power plant was to be set up in three phases, a 660 MW unit in phase 1 unit and two 1,980 MW units in the second and third phases.

The committee also noted destruction of 75 hectares of mangrove in Bocha island, which was declared a conservation zone under the environmental clearance conditions. Besides, the company did not take precautions to prevent blocking of creeks. Satellite images showed signs of deterioration and vanishing of creeks near the proposed north port, where reclamation activity was carried out.

The committee found evidence of accretion in the south port as well and recommended immediate action to prevent loss of those creeks.

The committee also observed that no precaution was taken to prevent salinity contamination of ground water. Since a large volume of sea water was to be used for the power plant, prevention of contamination was one of the conditions set at the time of clearance.

The company, believed to have close ties with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was also found short of inventory in fly ash utilisation and disposal.

The committee suggested creation of an Environment Restoration Fund, which should be one per cent of the project cost (including the cost of the thermal power plant) or Rs 200 crore, whichever is higher, for remediation of eco-damages. It also recommended cancellation of environmental clearance to the north port.

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