MAC: Mines and Communities

Adani's port in fresh environmental storm

Published by MAC on 2017-11-07
Source: The Wire (2017-11-07)

Recommended biggest-ever fine countered by government

Yet another accusation of mutiple environmental violations has been registered with India's Supreme Court against the powerful Adani corporation.

Supreme Court Orders Further Probe Into Environmental Violations at
Adani’s Mundra Port and SEZ

By The Wire Staff

1 November 2017

An environment ministry committee, which had earlier found large-scale
violations, has now been asked to look specifically at the allegation of
sand dune levelling.

New Delhi: In a case related to environmental violations by the Adani
group in its port and special economic zone construction at Mundra in
Gujarat’s Kutch district, the Supreme Court has instructed an inspection
committee to probe whether the company has violated norms by levelling
sand dunes, which act as a natural defence for the coastline and seaside
biodiversity.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MEFCC) in
2012 constituted a five-member committee to probe alleged environmental
violations by the Adani Port and SEZ Ltd. Headed by the eminent
environmentalist Sunita Narain, the committee, in its report which was
submitted in April 2013, had found that the company had violated multiple
environmental norms while developing the port and SEZ.

“In the Committee’s view the Adani Waterfront and Power Plant project,
which has been granted clearance in different phases beginning 1995, has
led to massive ecological changes with adverse impacts,” the report, which
was extremely critical of the company for not showing any concern for
environmental regulations, noted. Among a range of complaints against the
company, the committee was supposed to investigate the damages to mangrove
forests and sand dunes in the area. However, while the report gave ample
evidence to show the loss of mangrove forests because of large-scale
construction of bunds, it did not delve into the issue of sand dune
levelling.

According to the complainants, levelling of sand dunes has led to a huge
loss of coastal biodiversity, rendering the local inhabitations vulnerable
in the face of of natural disasters.

It is in this context that the petitioners had moved the top court to
intervene on the issue of sand dune levelling, which did not find any
mention in the environment ministry committee’s report.

In its order on October 23, the bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and
Deepak Gupta, while hearing a petition on the specific issue of sand
dunes, said that although the inspection committee set up by the
environment ministry to probe alleged violations by the Adani group has
submitted its report, “there is no mention of levelling of sand dunes”,
particularly in Mor Dhuva, a reserved forest, towards the north of the
west port, allotted to the company for non-forest use. The court further
requested the committee to probe the matter and give its report within six
weeks.

The bench decided to list the matter for hearing after seven weeks.

The court’s instruction may renew interests of activists in the
environmental violations by the Adani group at Mundra. A large section of
activists had agitated against the UPA government for ignoring multiple
violations by the Adani group and had even alleged that the government had
gone overboard to ensure that the company had a smooth run. This had
forced the government to constitute the committee.

The committee, in its report, confirmed many of these allegations. For
instance, its report noted, “There has been an attempt to bypass the
statutory procedures, by using different agencies, at the Centre and
state, for obtaining clearances for the same project.”

It had also recommended imposition of Rs 200 crore as penalty on the
company, supposed to be used a restoration fund for the damages to the
environment. This was the biggest ever fine for environmental violations.

In July last year, however, a Business Standard report had claimed that
the MEFCC under the Narendra Modi government had decided to withdraw the
penalty and to extend the environmental clearance issued in 2009 to the
waterfront development project to be developed by the company. The
waterfront project has often been used by the company in the courts as its
defence for violating environmental norms, but activists say that it may
further damage the biodiversity in the area.

Although the MEFCC denied having cancelled the penalty, a subsequent
report in the Business Standard explained in detail how the ministry had,
indeed, proceeded in a round-about way to grant financial relief to the
company.

The Adani group has had a poor record when it comes to respecting
environmental regulations, because of which the company has often found
itself at the receiving end of environmental activists’ anger. It may be
noted that the company is facing similar charges in Australia, where it
has acquired the license for the Carmichael coal mine, supposed to be the
largest coal mine in the country.

 

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