Nirma asked to stop work on cement plant project

March 12th, 2011 - 10:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Gandhinagar, March 12 (IANS) Detergent major Nirma’s proposed cement plant in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district is in trouble, with the central environment and forests ministry ordering the company to stop construction work and explain why the project’s environmental clearance should not be cancelled.

The ministry notice, a copy of which was made available Saturday, says: “Now, therefore under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, you (M/s Nirma Limited) are directed, in view of the conclusions of the Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) and the fragile nature as also the importance of avoiding any further damage to the wetland, to hereby stop the implementation, including construction work, of the project with immediate effect.”

The notice also asked Nirma to show cause as to why the environmental clearance accorded to the project should not be revoked and the stoppage of work not be made permanent. The action came after a team of experts from the EAC visited the site and found that the project area included wetlands.

The EAC concluded: “”Although the artificially created Samadhiyala Bandhara (reservoir) may not appear in the list of nationally important wetlands identified by the ministry, but it is critically important to the local economy as it is serving as a dependable source for irrigation.”

The committeee said: “The land allotted to Nirma has been shown in government revenue records as a waste land. However, it may be observed that our revenue records are very old and need to be revised otherwise every wetland will be lost in name of waste land. Since wetlands are essential for charging of aquifers and storing water, it is high time for the government to initiate change in the revenue records on the basis of ground reality to save these wetlands from ruthless exploitation.”

Nirma has been informed that if it wants a personal hearing, then it can be heard March 16 and 17, provided it informs the ministry a day in advance before these dates.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which had brought the case to ministry’s attention following which the expert committee was sent to the site, welcomed the action.

CSE director general Sunita Narain, who went to the project site to see things for herself, said: “We found huge violations in the environmental impact assessment report submitted by the company, which did not reveal that the project was being built on a massive water body. In fact, the company got environmental clearance saying the site was barren land.”

A CSE press release charged the state government with playing along with the company in this subterfuge. It said the environmental impact assessment says the plant site is situated on barren land, and does not mention the rivers around, bringing water to the reservoir.

Narain said that the environment ministry’s decision is significant in this case, laying a ground rule and setting a precedent that there will be zero tolerance when it comes to take over and destruction of water bodies.

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