PIL against Vedanta's proposed Guj zinc smelter plant

Petition filed against Vedanta's proposed zinc smelter plant in south Gujarat

Representative Image. Credit: iStockPhoto

A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed at Gujarat High Court against the proposed zinc smelter plant by Hindustan Zinc Limited of Vedanta group at Doswada village in Tapi district, south Gujarat. The petition has sought to stay the process of operation of the proposed plant as a temporary relief and has asked the court to direct the state government to hear the voices of village representatives as prescribed under Panchayat Act for scheduled areas.

The development comes days after a violent clash broke out between the police and local residents from a scheduled tribe (ST) community during the public hearing organised by Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Tapi collector office for hearing grievances of villagers protesting the upcoming plant. The PIL has been filed by Chhotu Vasava, the 76-year-old Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Jhagadia in Bharuch district.

The PIL says that on July 1, a group of village heads and concerned citizens had gone to the district collector office to submit resolutions they had passed voicing their concerns against the project but the local authorities refused to meet them. It says that the concerned citizens also raised their objections through letters, e-mails and held peaceful protests to draw authorities' attention.

On July 5, the public hearing was organised by GPCB and local revenue officers where, the PIL alleges, only selected persons were allowed to attend. "As this message was spread in villages, having felt cheated and fraud," a large number of people gathered at the hearing confronted the authorities which led to violence. The local police booked over 200 tribals in the FIR without naming anyone for the violence in which several policemen were injured and large scale properties were damaged.

Claiming that he was aware of developments happening on the ground, Vasava has stated as one of his grounds for filing the PIL that "There is prima facie many basis of making unfair, illegal and unjust benefit to the influential M/S Hindustan Zinc Limited by respondent authority and some of having vested interest without considering public in general."

He has said that there is a gross violation of several provisions of Panchayats (extension to the scheduled areas) act, 1996 which requires "Every Gram Sabha shall approve the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the panchayat at the village level." He said that there will be "prolonged impact of Zinc Smelter Complex on water sources in particular areas...discharge of polluted or wastewater by contaminated leachate from disposal or dumping of solid waste etc."

The proposed project is being implemented in 165 hectares of Gujarat Industrial Corporation (GIDC) land, which according to the state government, "is already under the industrial land use category." The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, uploaded on GPCB website, states that "the proposed project would have adverse impacts on the environment. However, with proper and judicious implementation of the mitigation and environment management measures, the impacts can be further minimized and can be maintained well within the permissible limits specified by the regulatory authorities."

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