The application for environment clearance for this 300 MW power plant is currently pending with the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) and its appraisal committee. As per the EIA notification 2006, thermal power projects under 500 MW are termed as 'Category B' and need to take permission at the state level. If over 500 MW, whether a new operation or expansion, then approvals will be considered by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in New Delhi. These projects are branded as 'Category A'. In its letter dated 11th March, 2010 the Gujarat State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) has informed the OPG Group that the environmental clearance for the 300 MW power project will be considered only after the company responds in detail to the issues raised by the local communities.
Expansion plans, even before first phase is approved
But even as this application is pending, the OPG group is thinking bigger. On 3 December 2009, the group submitted an application to the MoEF for establishing the Terms of Reference (ToR) to prepare an EIA report for the expansion of the plant from 300 to 2600 MW. In his letter to the MoEF, OPG group's Managing Director, Arvind Gupta makes no mention of the fact that even the 300 MW plant has not yet been cleared.
Under normal circumstances, it is very likely that this would have gone unnoticed. However, MASS activitists filed a Right to Information application and sought out the details. As soon as this came to their notice, a letter (dated 26 February 2010) was sent to the Envirioent Minister Jairam Ramesh, seeking his intervention. It highlights that the OPG group has deliberately tried to mislead the concerned authorities, and therefore their proposal is liable to rejection, as well cancellation of the smaller plant too.
Read the complete article, at http://indiatogether.org/2010/mar/env-bhad.htm
In a positive step in response to this issue, in its circular dated March 22nd, 2010, the Environment Ministry, led by the Environment Minister, Shri.Jairam Ramesh, has taken cognisance of the issue and taken steps to rectify the clearance process. The Ministry has decided that the expansion plan for projects will be considered only after the implementation of the earlier phase has commenced. Also, in case of projects (like the OPG project which applied for expansion to 2600 MW while the clearance for 300 MW project is still pending), for which environmental clearance for the earlier phase has not yet been accorded, the company will have to submit a comprehensive proposal for the entire project by clubbing together all the phases so that environmental issues can be addressed holistically.
The fishworkers and other traditional communities on the Kutch coast and also the Environment Activists welcome this positive step taken by the Environment Ministry and applaud the Environment ministry for its efforts to strengthen and streamline the environment clearance process and view this as one more step towards pro-poor, environment friendly and sustainable development in our country.