A committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has said the Adani Port and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) violated environmental clearance conditions. It recommended an environment restoration fund be formed to mitigate the damage. The fund, it said, should be worth one per cent of the project cost (including the cost of the thermal power plant), or Rs 200 crore, whichever was higher.
This fund should be used for the remediation of the environmental damage in Mundra and the strengthening of regulatory and monitoring systems, it said.
"As a responsible corporate, we have been complying with the applicable rules and regulations. We will continue to work closely with the government for preservation of environment and upliftment of the communities in which we operate. We are studying the report in detail and will work out appropriate steps. The north port has not been developed and, hence, this will not impact the current operations," a spokesperson said.
APSEZ and the Adani power plant project have been in the eye of a storm for their adverse ecological impact. Villagers from the Mundra block have filed litigation against the projects. Based on the complaints, MoEF had set up a committee to examine the allegations of environmental damage and non-compliance. The five-member committee was headed by environmentalist Sunita Narain and included officials from the MoEF, as well as experts on coastal ecosystems and disaster management.
Today, the committee submitted its report to Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan.
After inspecting the site, the committee said cases of non-compliance included widespread destruction of mangroves — 75 hectares of mangroves had been lost in Bocha island, declared a conservation zone under environmental clearance conditions.
“The company has not taken precautions to guard against blocking of creeks because of construction activities; satellite imagery shows signs of deterioration and loss of creeks near the proposed north port,” the report stated.
It added APSEZ had been less than serious about reporting on the compliance conditions decided earlier.
“In its investigations, the committee found there had been instances to circumvent statutory procedures by using different agencies---the Centre and state---for obtaining clearances for the same project. The public hearing procedure, a critical part of project clearance that helps to understand and mitigate the concerns of locals, had also been bypassed on one pretext or another,” said Narain.
She added the fishing community, which depended on the coasts for their livelihood, was the worst-hit. “The development on the coast, on their land, has clearly left little space for them.”
“If monitoring was rigorous, public and credible, there would have been no need for this committee. This is why we have recommended a monitoring system to ensure corrective action suggested by this report is taken in a time-bound manner,” she said. According to the committee’s report, there should be a plan to ensure access and provision of basic facilities, including a dedicated fishing harbor.
The committee recommended the environmental clearance to the North Port be cancelled. This could lead to an increase in the mangrove conservation area and ensure ecological balance in the coastal zone. The committee also recommended various steps on mangrove conservation, flyash management and disposal, salinity control, coastal safety and project clearance conditions and post-clearance monitoring. It said post-clearance monitoring was the weakest area and needed an urgent boost.