“You are requested to take legal action under section 15 of EP Act (Environment Protection Act) and to furnish the details of prosecution for illegal construction of imported coal based thermal power plant at Meramundali, Dhenkanal,” said environment director, S B Samant in a letter to the Collector.
This direction of the state government follows a missive from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in February, this year, asking the state to book Bhushan Energy Ltd (BEL), a subsidiary of Bhushan Steel, for violation of environment norms.
The state government was requested to initiate proceedings against BEL on behalf of MoEF and the district Collector was empowered to take legal action. Since there was delay in initiating the proceedings, the state government has asked the Collector to expedite the process.
“It is requested that expeditious steps may please be taken for taking legal action against the defaulting projects for early compliance to the Government of India, New Delhi,” said Samant.
The Union government had decided to take action against BEL after receiving reports about the construction activity undertaken by the company for a 440 Mw power plant near its steel unit at Dhenkanal without obtaining environmental clearances.
Though the company proposed to set up a 2,000 Mw coal-fired power plant, its first unit comprised of 300 Mw capacity, which was later upgraded to 440 Mw by adding three small units of 27 Mw each and two other units with 20 Mw and 15 Mw generation capacities.
The BEL was even supplying surplus power to the state grid since 2009 along with other co-generation power plants located in the state.
However, it stopped generation last year, when the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) sealed the power plant on allegation of flouting green laws.
There was allegation that BEL had violated rules pertaining to air and water pollution control measures. The district administration had launched an investigation after local residents complained that the company was dumping fly ash outside the plant premises and discharging hazardous effluent into a nearby drain.
After the allegations were found true, the OSPCB decided to shut the plant by sealing the coal feeding area to ensure complete closure of power production activities.
The extreme action was taken after due process of serving show-cause notices, the pollution watchdog officials had said.