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Industries in Mundra, Gujarat, flout coastal regulation, adversely impacting locals' groundwater needs: Report

Port-led development next to Mundra impacts livelihood
By Our Representative
Planning for the biennial Vibrant Gujarat world business summit, to be held in January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state suffers from complete failure to cope up with the adverse impact of industrial investment on the livelihood of local communities, suggests a new report prepared by a group of researchers.
The report, titled “How effective are environmental regulations to address impacts of industrial and infrastructure projects in India”, has been prepared by research team consisting of Krithika Dinesh, Meenakshi Kapoor, Kanchi Kohli, Manju Menon and Preeti Shree Venkatram of the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Programme, Delhi.
While the report suggests that the state has been faster in granting environmental clearances than most other states – with a 93% of approval coastal clearance rate compared to Tamil Nadu’s 86%, Andhra Pradesh’s 85%, Karnataka’s 85% and Maharashtra’s 74% -- it points to how quick approvals have had adverse impacted local communities and environment.
Pointing out that the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991, was the first to acknowledge that industrialization would impact groundwater drawl, the report says, “Ground water aquifers become even more pertinent for districts like Kutch in Gujarat, which lies in the semi-arid climatic zone with an average annual rainfall of less than 75cm.”
A district which received massive industrialization following the earthquake of 2001, thanks to major incentives provided to investors, leading to “a series of port-based industries, expansion of existing and development of new ports, road and railways construction projects”, little was realized that the CRZ notification inhibits the drawl of water “in the first 500 metres of the sea, except for local needs, such as domestic use and for agriculture and fisheries.”
Giving example of communities in three sites in Mundra taluka, living close to three different industries, the report says, they have been particularly facing “these impacts”, with local people noticing that “the level of water in their village wells was going down.”
“Some also observed that wells that used to provide sweet water 10 years ago, had now turned saline. They suspected that drawl of water by industries in their vicinity was contributing to it as some of them had seen bore wells in the premises of these companies”, the report says.
With the help of community organizers working in the area and legal researchers, the report says, the locals found out that “conditions regulating drawl of water are usually given in the environmental permission and consents granted to these industries.”
“From the replies to the right to information (RTI) applications they realized that none of the industries had a valid no objection certificate (NOC)”, the report says, adding, while in the case of one of them the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) office had received an application, “it never granted an NOC to it”. As the the other two cases, “their NOCs were issued with two years validity in 2008 and 2005, respectively.”
“This meant that currently all three industries were operating without an NOC to draw groundwater”, the report says, adding, “Villagers suspected that there was more to this violation story, as mere operation of 2-3 wells per industry cannot have such an impact on the water table in the region.”
To find out the truth, the report says, the villagers “have asked the CGWB office for ground water monitoring reports of Mundra Taluka for the last ten years”, in the hope that “through these reports their observations can be presented as facts.”
The villagers are doing this to provide the “evidence of violations committed by these industries and impacts they are facing and seeking action to check the violation and avoid recurrence”, the report says, adding, “Although villagers understand that regulatory action will not resolve the current water crisis immediately, they still want to pursue the remedies to spare their children of this water scarcity.”
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