High Court asks MOEF to consider ‘green clearance’ for Lafarge cement plant afresh

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 ‘A single member by no stretch of imagination can be said to constitute the authority.”

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.

“The mining site is much larger than the plant site and mining will have a huge impact on environment,” 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.

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  1. says: PradeepR

    Overhanging cement soot from the cement plant near Barmana/Bilaspur and balding hillocks need no PhD in envirnmental sciences to tell you what future has it store for the people who not accostomed to think beyond tourism as livelihood earner. I wonder if someone has heard of ‘Mountain Deserts’ like we have some in central India or Africa, where no one turns up even for a family picnic. On an optimistic note, I must say it is better off than Mahrashtra and Mumbai’s destroyed mangroves which stop no more flooding Mumbai and Maharshtra year after year. Cheers!

  2. says: Raman khanna

    Sustainable development is needed and it is for the powers that be to judicially, fairly and equitably ensure this happens.Closing down projects is not the answer but adequate measures must be taken to see that law is respected and followed.All companies must not be painted with the same brush.Lafarge as an established world leader in this field is led by responsible patriotic people who probably have more respect and concern for local environment and issues than what is imagined. They must be given an opportunity to shed the baggage of past irresponsible development and show case a development process hitherto unknown.

  3. says: PradeepR

    Hopefully, the people of the hill state are not defrauded by Expert Appraisal Committee this time which passed the project without visiting the site and literning to the local objections. It is bit puzzling why HC should have recommended videography as option. It should be done compulsarily and extensively, by different TV channels, so that there remains no possibility of fraud committed by the multinationals on the economically needy locals and certain pliant elements within.

  4. says: S.R.Chauhan

    I am a resident of village talehan which is being considered as a main mining area by the company. the Environment Appreseal Committee did not visit the mining area and submited a report on the basis of which the MOEF granted Environment Clearance in favour of the company. the EIA submitted by the company shows that the area in question is not cultivated. I want to submit here that the whole village depends on agriculture. Anardana worth lacs of rupees is produced by the villagers every year, more than 80% dependence is upon the forest land, the forest land of village talehan is a big grazefield for the cattle. The order of high court of himachal pradesh is in favour of the local affected peopl,. the committee has been directed to interact the local affected people with videography. the people of the area are totally against the cement plant in the area. more than 90% people are against this cement plant. the comments on sustainable development are against the local affected people.

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