Himachal High Court Green Bench Cancels Sundernagar Cement Plant

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Shimla: Special green bench of Himachal High Court today quashed the environment clearance and land acquisition notification for Sundernagar cement plant in Mandi district, virtually canceling the project that was otherwise facing stiff opposition from environmentalists and the resident local population of the area.

In all there were 6 petition filed by environmentalist and residents of Sundernagar opposing the project before the High Court.

The double bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Rajiv Sharma passed the order. Speaking for the bench Justice Sharma read out the operative part of the judgment and rejected the in principal environment clearance accorded to the project as well as the government notification for land acquisition for the cement plant that was allotted to Harish Cements.

Welcoming the court’s order, Guman Singh, convener Himalaya Nithi Abhiyan, an NGO said, “the courts had rightfully intervened where political parties and governments had failed to discharge their responsibility towards protecting the states environment.”

He said, “the courts order should make the government take a re-look at the urgency land acquisition provisions to acquire land, something which should be stopped for all projects as it was not only illegal but was being used to dispossess residents of their land holdings.”

A proposal to set up a cement plant at Sundernagar was initially moved in 1989 but faced opposition right at the start.

However, a change of government in 1993, saw signing of an memorandum of understanding for setting up a 1 million ton capacity cement unit with Harish Cements in 1995.

The proposal was shot down by the ministry of environment and forestry on the grounds that it was too close to a wildlife sanctuary.

Plans were redrawn to reallocate the plant and the controversial project obtained an in principal environment clearance in 2005. This infuriated residents and the green lobby, who challenged it in the courts as the mandatory public hearing to register people’s objections over the mining area was allegedly not conducted.

An RTI query revealed that then union minister for forest and environment, A Raja had waived of the mandatory public hearing on the recommendation of chief minister Virbhadra Singh about “larger public and national interest” involved made on 29 March, 2005.

While the matter was pending with the courts, the state government started land acquisition process and sources in the industry department revealed that a mining lease for 725.857 hectares was signed with Harish cement on 15 January, 2007 of which 469.68 hectares was forest lands and the rest was private lands.

Meanwhile the cost for setting up the plant had escalated from Rs 400 crore to Rs 1200 crore and in lieu of the forest land involved the company is also said to have deposited Rs 21 crore as net present value of the forest diversion on the mining land to be used for the project.

Editor-Reporter with Hill Post, Ravinder Makhaik as a journalist has for over two decades worked for India’s leading newspapers and television networks.

4 Comments

  • Rajneesh Sharma says:

    Indeed a great news or with this new cement plant, this area would have become unbearable to live with dust and pollution as same is the case with Barmana and Darlaghat areas where all villages and areas nearby wear a deserted look with 24 hours of traffic chaos..

    Somehow it has also saved tourism as this highway also leads towards Manali , Leh etc where tourists would have fed up from line of trucks right from Kiratpur till Sundernagar !

  • Ritesh Thakur says:

    May be they should look some other site .
    This cement plant would have generated revenue as well as employment and business to the transporters .
    There are many other places that are neither a tourist point nor densely populated…like sirmaur.

    • Rajneesh Sharma says:

      Mr. Ritesh,

      Its no logic to destroy environment for sake of getting employment, this is a rich belt in agriculture, alternatively things can be done for local self improvement in agriculture, horticulture & employment. And the kind of employment you are thinking is subject to third grade jobs for Himachali’s… cleaners in trucks, roadside puncture and tyre repair helpers, most of big fruits are always consumed by clever foxes from outside. The existing two cement plants are live example how much employment they have created for Himachal.

      If job or employment is the issues, then public should allow this cement plant…..and after few decades we may see sudden rise in employment and business for medical quacks, medical labs, private hospitals, TB , and cancer diagnostic labs as patients will definitely rise after consuming polluted dust 24 hours that will be showered by this cement plant.

      And what revenue we think of? Where are Taj Mahals created by ACC or Ambuja for Himachal by their revenue?

      Employment milna chahiye..chahe uske liye murde kyun na taiyar karne paden. . we need to stop looking at weired side of getting employment by discouraging such avenues..

    • VPS 908 says:

      Mr Ritesh,
      It is amazing that u r concerned about meagre gains in “transportations” and overlooking the future of the environment , its ppl and ur kids, CEMENT PLANTS IS A BIG NO NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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