Friday, January 26, 2018

Gujarat's biggest China-backed steel plant "initiated" by CM off Mundra has no eco-clearance: Govt of India told

By Our Representative
Is Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani seeking to set up Gujarat's biggest China-backed steel plant in Mundra, Kutch district, without verifying that the promoter private company has not taken any environmental clearance? It would seem is, if a letter written by well-known environmental expert, Mahesh Pandya, to CK Mishra, secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India is any indication.
Heading Gujarat's environmental NGO, Pandya said in his letter, Rupani's move to inaugurate setting up of the Rs 15,000 plant last week was a clear "violation or breach of Notification SO 1533 relating Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) dated September 14, 2006." Rupani's "ground-breaking" ceremony, which took place on January 23 near Kundrodi village, was for an India-China joint venture. It's initial investment would be Rs 6,000 crore.
The Gujarat government allocated 213 hectares (ha) land between Ratadiya and Kundrodi villages for the project, after the Chinese Sunrise Group signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Government of Gujarat at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, held in January 2017. The Chinese steel major is operating through a subsidiary, set up in June last year Ahmedabad, Chromeni Steel Private Limited, half of whose directors are Chinese.
Referring to reports in local media about the "groundbreaking ceremony", Pandya said, Rupani unveiled the plaque of the "biggest steel plant of Gujarat", even though "it has been clearly stated in the Clause 6 of the Application for Prior Environment Clearance as per the Notification SO 1533, dated September 14, 2006 issued by the MoEFCC that no activity about the project can be initiated without obtaining environment clearance."
Pointing towards "violation or breach of relevant law or rule by the chief minister", Pandya said, so far no "Environmental Impact Assessment report has been prepared", nor have "any Environment Public Hearing or any Socio-economic Survey have been conducted" for the high profile project.
Pandya said, "In the absence of this, how and wherefrom the basic needs such as electricity or water, for sustenance of the project, will be sourced? Since no such basic inputs have been tied-up or finalized, how can the groundbreaking ceremony be performed? This goes to mean that environment clearance will anyhow be surely obtained for this project."
Pandya further said, "This also goes to imply that Notification 2006, SO 1533 regarding Environment Impact Assessment, which is applicable for industries, is a mere formality and is meaningless or any procedure being followed under this notification is a farce."
He advised political leaders, especially ministers, that they should "seek information as to whether environmental clearance for the industrial unit/ project has been received before performing any inaugural ceremony, and if such clearance has not been obtained, then they should avoid or desist themselves from inaugurating such projects, or else wrong message may thereby be conveyed to the people or the public at large."
Pandya has forwarded copies of the letter to Rita Khanna, director, Impact Assessment, Government of India, MoEFCC; Sharath Kumar Palleria, member secretary (Industry-I), scientist, Government of India; and concerned officials of the Government of Gujarat.