Shimla: The Himachal High Court today directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest to consider afresh the case of according environment clearance for a cement plant proposed to be setup in Mandi district by Lafarge, a French company, as the earlier one given had not followed procedures.
The division bench of the court consisting of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol remanded the issued back to the MOEF and directed that the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) ask a sub-committee to visit the plant and mining site after giving due notice and decide the matter afresh whether or not to give environment clearance for the proposed cement plant.
Disposing of a bunch of petitions, including a public interest litigation (PIL), the court also set aside the ruling of a one member National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA), which in September, 2010 had quashed the environment clearance accorded by MOEF.
Justice Deepak Gupta observed â€˜A single member by no stretch of imagination can be said to constitute the authority.â€
Based on the site inspection carried out by NEAA chairman JC Kala in June, 2010, the environment clearance accorded by MOEF had been quashed by the appellate authority in Sep, 2010. Lafarge had appealed the order in court.
Deciding the case on merits, the bench pointed out that MOEF while according environment clearance on 8th June, 2009 had overlooked the fact the a sub-committee appointed by EAC had not done spot inspection when it visited the plant site on 2.5.2009 and had not visited the mine site at all, but only saw it from three different locations.
â€œThe mining site is much larger than the plant site and mining will have a huge impact on environment,â€ the judge observed.
The court also pointed out that the sub-committee had relied on incorrect facts that find mention such as a road to be constructed by various cement industries and laying of a railway line upto Barmana village being in an advanced stage, whereas no such developments have taken place on the ground.
Reacting to the court ruling, a Lafarge spokesman said that the company would comply with recommendations of the ministry, as maybe stipulated.
Based on the good limestone deposits lying at Alsindi in Karsog area of Mandi district, the Himachal government had handed over the site to French conglomerate Lafarge on 25th September 2006 for setting up a 3 million ton capacity cement plant.
Local residents and green activists have been opposing setting up of the plant.