Friday, January 23, 2015

Allowing Nirma cement plant in Gujarat, Green Tribunal wants "wise use" of wetlands for "development"

By Our Representative
In a major boost to projects like Nirma Cement Plant, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) quotes the well-known Ramsar Convention to justify why even a wetland could be used for "development". Pointing towards the use of words "wise use", the NGT quotes the Ramsay Declaration as saying, “The issue of conservation of wetlands worldwide vis-a-vis development was taken cognizance of by the international community in Ramsar Convention in the following words: ‘Wetland should be conserved by ensuring their wise use'."
Even as allowing Nirma to continue with its cement project along a water body at Mahua in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, the NGT says, "Wise use is defined as ‘sustainable utilization for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible that the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem’. Sustainable utilization is understood as human use of wetland so that it may yield the continuous benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.”
In what can be further termed as of significance for other projects like Nirma wanting to set up projects along water bodies, the NGT directed two top government bodies to study for two years how how to do “wise use” water bodies. 
Thus, it said, in its order dated January 14, that the Samdiyala Bandhara -- where the Nirma Cement Plant is being allowed -- to be “monitored” and “studied" for two years on the commencement of the project” by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), “in conjunction with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The "monitoring" and the "study", interestingly, would be carried out in close alliance of the Nirma Group, which is setting up the project. The NGT said, the GPCB and the CPCB would be financially supported by the industrial group, adding, though, “Liberty is granted to GPCB and CPCB to take assistance of such expert body/institution in the field of environmental monitoring of water bodies.”
Even as providing this conceptual framework for allowing the Nirma Cement Plant -- which was set aside by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) under the previous UPA government citing it would harm a "wetland" -- the NGT insists, the Samdiyala Bandhara is not a wetland at all, as claimed by the previous MoEF. 
It says, it is actually “a temporary storage of water, which gets used by farmers or gets evaporated due to its large spread, or gets percolated due to fairly high porosity of soil and as such cannot be called as a productive wetland having all perennial features of a wetland.”
With powers equal to a high court, the NGT said, “The revenue records described the area in question as a ‘wasteland’ and it was never, even till today, identified as wetland by the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority and so notified by the Central Government under the provisions of the Act for the purposes of Wetland (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2010.” 
Hence, there was no "deliberate concealment and or submission of false or misleading information or data to the authorities according environmental clearance”, as argued by the MoEF.
In fact, the NGT praises the Nirma offer before the Gujarat High Court to “recompense” 100 hectares of land, 80 per cent of which was under submergence“, even as “deepening certain portion of the land and channelizing the storm water towards the water body.” 
Further: “We have also noticed that the project proponent have given up Captive Power Plant and Coke Oven Plant and the project is designed not to discharge any effluent or any material in the water body created by Samdiyala Bandhara.”
Pointing out these factors were “not fully taken into account” by the MoEF while rejecting the Nirma contention, the NGT said, he ministry decision was based on the the false premise that it was a wetland, reached by the Prof Babu Committee. 
“Prof Babu Committee recommended classification of the land in question as ‘wetland’ and ‘water body’ and observed that it had manifold ecological utility besides helping recharge of ground water, sustain rich biodiversity, provide pastures and support settlements and as such common property resource”, the NGT said.
The NGT added, “Revocation of the environmental clearance mainly proceeded on the premise that the environmental clearance accorded was founded on undisclosed and incorrect postulates mainly as regards the character of the land in question recognized by the Prof Babu committee as a wetland.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is as absurd a judgment as it can get when all their makers are paid highest possible bribes to come up with an outcome in favour of these private companies fully supported by modi government! Only god can save our wetlands and livelihoods of those who depend on them from such corrupt decision makers and businessmen running the government in our country!