Supreme Court lifts curbs on Mundra port projectJuly 9th, 2008 - 7:19 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday lifted its temporary curbs, imposed early this month, on development of the Rs.74 billion Mundra port project in Gujarat. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan was responding to a plea by the Adani group, which bagged the Gujarat government contract in 2001 to develop the port along with a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) around it, comprising several projects OF public importance, including power plants.
A vacation bench of Justice Altmas Kabir and Justice G.S. Singhvi had stalled the ongoing works on the project on a lawsuit by seven fishermen, alleging that the project was detrimental to the flora and fauna of the region.
The vacation bench ordered status quo on implementation of the project without hearing other parties, including the Adani group and the central and Gujarat governments.
The bench of the chief justice, while allowing the Adani group to continue with the developmental work at the Mundra port project, also ordered it to guard against filling and eliminating the natural Navinal Creek in the area.
The bench, which also included Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal, also asked the Adani group to guard against damaging the widespread mangroves in the area.
It granted relief to the Adani group after it pointed out to the court that rather than filling or damaging the creek, as alleged by the fishermen, it has developed it as one of the best natural harbours with 17.5-metre depth, required for anchoring and servicing of biggest vessels.
Appearing for the Adani group, senior counsel Harish Salve refuted the allegations that the ongoing work at the Mundra port had destroyed the mangroves.
He said the mangroves, instead, had grown by nearly three percent due to the ongoing works on the project.
Denying the allegations that the Adani group was indulging in land grabbing and evicting the fishermen from the area, Salve said the company had acquired the land strictly in accordance with law after paying compensation and premium for rehabilitation of fishermen.
The Mundra SEZ project, established under the SEZ Act of 2005, is proposed to come up on about 6,000 acres of land with a total investment of Rs.74 billion.
The Adani group also pointed out in its application that the Mundra port is a running port since 1998 and all loading and unloading activities, which require constant maintenance and upgrading, were being undertaken in accordance with law and after obtaining necessary permission and environmental clearances.
The application added that the group has already invested over Rs.35 billion in development of the port and planned to invest Rs.40 billion more in phases. Besides, the projected total investment in the port, the SEZ and power plants were worth Rs.500 billion.