New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) There is “incontrovertible” evidence that the Adani project at Gujarat’s Mundra has violated and not complied with environmental clearance conditions, said a government panel Thursday and called for imposing fine of Rs.200 crore for the environmental damage.
Based on complaints received, the union environment ministry had set up a committee to examine allegations of environmental destruction and non-compliance.
The five-member committee, headed by environmentalist Sunita Narain, included officials from the environment ministry and experts on coastal ecosystems and disaster management.
The committee, which submitted its report Thursday, used remote sensing technology to assess environmental damage that had occurred over the past decade.
It also called for cancelling environmental clearance of the North Port, contending it will lead to an increase in the mangrove conservation area and ensure ecological balance in this coastal zone.
It further said that the ministry should create an Environment Restoration Fund, which should be one percent of the project cost (including the cost of the thermal power plant) or Rs.200 crore, whichever is higher. This fund should be used for remediation of environmental damage in Mundra and for strengthening the regulatory and monitoring systems.
“The committee in its investigations has found that there have been instances to circumvent statutory procedures by using different agencies, at the centre and state, for obtaining clearances for the same project,” said Narain.
She said the public hearing procedure, which is a critical part of project clearance and helps to understand and mitigate the concerns of local people, has also been bypassed on one pretext or another.
The fisher community, which depends on the coasts for their livelihood, is the worst hit by these changes.
“The development on the coast, on their land has clearly left little space for them,” said Narain.
The committee found widespread destruction of mangroves and about 75 hectares of mangroves have been lost in Bocha Island, which was declared as a conservation zone under the environmental clearance conditions.
It highlighted that the company has not taken stipulated measures to ensure that the channels that bring large volumes of seawater for use in the thermal power plant and then discharge as well as the storage tank is lined so that there is no chance of salinity contamination in groundwater.
The committee notes that post-clearance monitoring is the weakest area, and needs urgent strengthening.
“If monitoring was rigorous, public and credible, there would have been no need for this committee. We have recommended that there is a need to create a monitoring system to ensure that corrective action suggested by this report is taken within a time-bound manner,” Narain added.