The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted a four-member committee to look into the complaints of Coastal Regulatory Zone violations in the expansion of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust’s (JNPT) Container Terminal-IV and submit “an independent factual report” in three months.
Hearing a complaint filed by Uran fisherman Dilip Pandurang Koli and others against the Union Government challenging the manner in which Environmental Clearance was granted to JNPT for the expansion on October 9, 2019, the western zonal bench of NGT headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also issued a notice to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Control (MoEF&CC).
The four-member committee comprises representatives from the Ministry, Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), and the Raigad District Magistrate, according to a press statement.
The appellants argued that the fragile ecology of the area has been subject to an onslaught of environmentally destructive activities by JNPT.
The appeal challenged the joint CRZ and Environmental Clearance granted to JNPT by the MoEF&CC, on the ground — that it was done on the wrong footing — that the CRZ area comprised of the project site is CRZ-IV, while it actually falls within CRZ-IA, where no fresh construction activities are permitted as per the CRZ Notification, 2011.
The appellant said the mandatory stage of public consultation under the EIA Notification, 2006 has been foregone, without any valid basis and JNPT had violated the conditions of previous Environmental Clearances.
The application said there has been a rich history of fishing activities in Uran Taluka, and the project impact assessment that preceded the impugned joint EC and CRZ Clearance had disregarded it completely.
The original EC which was issued in July 2008, was extended in February 2014 and the impugned CRZ clearance issued in July 2019 is the one presently being challenged.
The NGT noted the grievance of the appellants that the JNPT expansion area has been identified as an ecologically sensitive area by the MCZMA and falls under the CRZ-1A as per the coastal zone map. No construction is permitted in CRZ–1A.
The reclamation that is proposed to be carried out for the balance work of the 4th container terminal will seriously impact fishing activities being carried out by traditional fisherfolk who have a large presence in the area.
Welcoming the order, environmentalist B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, expressed the hope that the truth of the JNPT violations would come out. “We have been repeatedly pointing out several CRZ violations by JNPT and the worst of all is the absence of coastal zone clearance for the SEZ work,” he said.
The NGT Bench opined that response of the concerned statutory authorities and ascertainment of ground factual situation is required and hence issued order for constituting the committee.
Justices Sudhir Agarwal, M. Sathyanarayanan and Brijesh Sethi were the Judicial Members, while Dr Nagin Nanda, was the Expert Member of the Bench that heard the application and passed the order on June 23. The next hearing will be held on October 27 after the receipt of the committee report.