NEW DELHI: Government today told the National Green Tribunal that it was ready to rectify the shortcomings pointed out by the green panel in a coal-based thermal power plant in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) told a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that they were ready to remove the deficiencies which were pointed out in the judgement under the supervision of the green panel.
“Let the project proponent rectify the lapses instead of scrapping the environment clearance (EC) and delaying the project,” Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for MoEF and Uttar Pradesh government, said. The ASG said the power purchase agreement was signed in 2010 and if EC is quashed after seven years significant efforts will be wasted in vain and the whole project would be affected significantly.
He said the 1320 MW power project was of national importance and an application for grant of fresh environment clearance would delay the project substantially. Senior advocate Aman Lekhi, appearing for Welspun Energy, supported the contentions and said the project can be carried out under the supervision of the NGT.
Advocate Parul Gupta, appearing for the petitioner, vehemently opposed the submissions and said the entire process of EC was in violation of and in blatant disregard to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006. The bench after hearing arguments from all the parties, reserved its verdict on the plea seeking a review of its order setting aside environment clearance (EC) granted to the coal- based thermal power plant in Mirzapur district of UP.
Terming the entire process of granting the green nod as “tainted”, the NGT had restrained project proponent Welspun Energy (UP) Pvt Ltd from carrying out any development work at the project site and directed it to restore the area, which is a fertile agricultural land surrounded by a reserved forest, to its original condition.
The bench had said the videography of the public hearing organised for the grant of EC had shown the presence of gun- toting men among the people attending it, which reflected that the meet was not conducted in a free and fair manner.
“The entire process of consideration and appraisal of the proposal to grant EC is found tainted so as to render it less creditworthy than the one expected by law, and as such makes it even more difficult to suggest safeguards in order to render the project a sustainable one…
“In our opinion, it is advisable to go through the entire process of EC afresh before the green signal is given to the project. We, therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the Environment Clearance dated August 21, 2014,” it had said.
The NGT had said the Environment Clearance Regulations lay down a chain of “interconnected” processes to make a complete mechanism required to assess the potential impact of the project on the environment. The judgement was passed on a plea filed by environmental activists Debadityo Sinha, Shiv Kumar Upadhyay and Mukesh Kumar alleging that Welspun Energy had suppressed facts to obtain EC and the provisions of the 2006 EIA Notification had been violated.
Finding fault with the public consultation conducted for grant of EC, the bench had noted that the videography had revealed the presence of gun-toting men among those attending the meet. “Arms like guns are bound to strike fear in the hearts of men around and dominate their free will. It is, therefore, difficult to call this public hearing as a free and fairly conducted public hearing,” the bench, also comprising Expert Member Ranjan Chatterjee, said.
It had also agreed with the contention that withdrawal of the massive quantity of water from the Upper Khajuri Dam and Ganga through a pipeline would affect the ecological flow of Ganga and severely affect the Gangetic Biodiversity including Gangetic Dophins found in Mirzapur stretch.