Prove that Nirma plant is on wasteland, asks SC

The apex court had directed the committee to call for reports from a body of experts with five scientists, who should visit the site.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, made it clear that Nirma Industries has to scrap its cement plant in Gujarat`s Bhavnagar district, if it fails to prove that the
project does not fall in eco-sensitive wetlands.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia, after going through the expert committee`s report on the project, said the clearance to the plant was given on the wrong ground that, it was a waste land.

"Please show that it is a waste land or it (cement plant) is gone," the bench said, while asking the company to file its response on the report.

The expert committee`s report said, it was not a wasteland, as claimed by Gujarat government, while giving nod for the plant in 268 hectare in 2008.

The report was placed before the court by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), which also filed an affidavit supporting the findings of the expert committee.

The Committee, which was headed by C R Babu, Professor Emeritus and former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, has recommended relocation of the plant saying, it would "bring changes in the ecology of the water body".

It said, any location of such a polluting cement factory, based on coal thermal power plant and coke oven plant, would generate emissions and effluents that would damage the ecology and lead to reduction of crops in the area.

"The location of the industrial complex would adversely impact the ecosystem services. The lime stone mining in 3,460 hectares, the bulk of, which is a crop area, will lead to creation of dumps, which may result in reduction in the catchment area and possible salinity ingression," the report said.

It said, the area is agriculturally very important as it produces 6 per cent of total onions in India.

The committee further said, the nearby Mahuva Taluka harbours Asiatic lions and have been spotted in and around the water-body area.

"In fact, there is a reserve forest within 10km radius of the site. Two critically endangered vulture species and many other globally threatened bird species are seen around Bandhara," said the report, which was accepted by the MoEF.

In conclusion, the report said, "The committee unanimously recommends that the site of the cement plant industrial complex of Nirma be relocated elsewhere outside
Samadhiala Bandhara".

Earlier, the apex court had ordered a fresh environmental study of the area, where chemicals maker Nirma is setting up the cement plant.

The bench had directed the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF to study, whether the plant was in the wetland area or water bodies.

The apex court had directed the committee to call for reports from a body of experts with five scientists, who should visit the site.

Nirma had contended the company was working for the past three years on the project based on previous clearances and, it has already invested Rs 150 crore, in the project and, is committed to pumping in another Rs 450 crore.


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