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Friday, December 17, 2010

MoEF sends a showcause to Mundra Port and SEZ

Proposed OPG power plant in Mundra also gets notice
Express News Service Posted online: Fri Dec 17 2010, 00:11 hrs
Ahmedabad : Proposed OPG power plant in Mundra also gets notice

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued a showcause to the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (MPSEZ) located in Mundra taluka of Kutch district for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone notification of 1991 and asked state authorities to raze constructions that flout CRZ norms within four weeks.

The MoEF has also simultaneously issued showcause to OPG Power Gujarat Private Limited located in Mundra taluka, which is planning a 300-MW thermal power plant about 20 kms from the MPSEZ, for violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.

The notices follow a site visit by additional director of the MoEF A Senthilvel on December 6 and 7 and the report he submitted.

The MoEF had earlier received several representations alleging violations of various environmental laws from Bharat Patel, general secretary of the Machikar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, a local fishermen’s union.

The notice to the MPSEZ, operated by the Adani Group and valued at MoEF sends a showcause to Mundra Port and SEZ

Rs 29,610 crore in terms of market capitalisaion, lists several CRZ violations that include “large-scale” destruction of mangroves in different areas, blocking of creeks and tidal flow to mangrove areas, and building an airport, a township and a hospital without proper clearances.

The airport had obtained clearance from the Civil Aviation ministry, but had not obtained one from the MoEF, which is mandatory as per the CRZ notification.

The union ministry has asked the company to reply in 15 days failing which “appropriate orders as deemed fit will be passed under the circumstances of the case without any further notice”.

In addition, the union ministry has asked why several of the clearances already granted to the company by the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment should not be cancelled and why its own clearances should not be cancelled due to violation of conditions and why illegal constructions should not be dismantled to allow tidal flow.

The ministry also asked why a 1000-hectare mangrove afforestation drive in and around the project site should not be paid for by the MPSEZ.

The ministry has also directed the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority to prepare a revised CRZ area for the site, superimpose it on a map of the existing area and thereafter remove or dismantle any construction that violates the CRZ norms within four weeks.

A spokesperson for the Adani Group said, “The work carried out at Mundra is in compliance with clearances. We are studying the issues raised by MoEF and will respond to them in due course of time. Operations at Mundra are normal.”

The MPSEZ has chalked out massive expansion plans, having signed an MoU with the Gujarat government during the Vibrant Gujarat summit 2009 to expand and develop multiple facilities at Mundra at an estimated cost of Rs 15,000 crore.

The proposed port facilities were expected to become operational in a phased manner from 2011 onwards.

The MPSEZ is the second port to be questioned by the MoEF. Earlier, the proposed Positra port plan had to be scrapped in April this year due to dangers it posed to the marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Kutch.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fishermen up ante over proposed Kutch power plant

The below article was published in the Indian Express, dated Dec 2nd, 2010.

Adam Halliday, Dec 2, 2010

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has taken cognisance of the letters sent by the fishermen of Kutch in connection with the setting up of a power plant in the area.
The fishermen had stated in their letters that OPG Power Gujarat Private Limited, a subsidiary of the UK-based OPG Power Ventures PLC, had begun work on a 330 MW power plant before getting the required clearances.

In his reply to the letter, Jairam said: “Our information is that no actual project work has started yet. The company’s proposals are being examined by the Gujarat State Coastal Zone Management Authority which will make its recommendations after which a decision will be taken.”

He added: “You must get all the facts right before launching such a campaign. First, a 300 MW power plant needs no environmental approval from MoEF. Only 500 MW and above come to us for environmental approval. Secondly, this project has yet to come to MoEF for CRZ clearance.”

The fishermen, members of a local fishermen’s union, replied back saying the ground reality is different, and attached eight photographs of what they said are of the construction site. The pictures show earthmovers, bulldozers, trailers for the workers, a truck and building materials, all purportedly inside a barbed-wire fencing. They said the photographs were taken at the periphery of the OPG site, as the security guards prevented them from entering the core project area.

They said the company had received clearance from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, but the CRZ Committee under MoEF had rejected the plans though the company had submitted fresh proposals.

The company had begun work on the plant without having obtained the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance — a violation of one of the conditions in the GPCB’s clearance.

“We would request you to send a Central team for field verification to ascertain the facts. The issues we have raised in the campaign and also written to the MoEF, pertain to OPG’s CRZ clearance and not the environment clearance per se,” the fishermen said.

“The core issue is that though OPG has received environmental clearance from the state government, it has not received CRZ clearance. But it has started construction on the ground, taking for granted that the CRZ committee will approve its proposal. Not only will it create a fait accompli for the CRZ committee, but is also a violation of one of the conditions of the environment clearance,” they wrote.

Company officials told The Indian Express that they are confident that the fresh submissions will cleared and so have begun work.