No trees be cut without consent in UP, MP: NGT to industries

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Monday restrained industries from cutting trees without consent from competent authorities in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Monday restrained industries, including Essar, Hindalco and Reliance` Sasan Ultra Mega Power project, from cutting trees without consent from competent authorities in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also issued bailable warrants against the officials concerned of Madhya Pradesh government`s environment department, forest department and pollution control board as well as the District Collector of Singrauli as no one appeared on their behalf despite issuance of notice to them on September 18.

"Respondents 3, 4, 5 (Madhya Pradesh government) and 8 (Singrauli District Collector) have been served. Despite service no one is present... We issue bailable warrants against respondents 3, 4, 5 and 8 in the sum of Rs 10,000...To ensure appearance of these respondents before the tribunal on the next date of hearing.

"In the meanwhile, none of the respondents will fell trees without consent of the competent authority," the bench said and listed the matter for November 12.

The NGT was hearing a plea opposing new power projects in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts alleging that pollution and serious ailments are being caused due to coal mining as well as emissions of thermal power stations there.

The petition by Supreme Court lawyer Ashwani Kumar Dubey has also raised the issue of alleged felling of trees by Mahan Coal Ltd, a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco Industries, without obtaining requisite forest clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

During the day`s proceedings counsel for Essar assured the tribunal that its 1200 MW thermal power project in Singrauli has all required clearances and that the power plant is not even in the forest area.

The counsel for Hindalco submitted that its captive power project there only has stage I forest clearance and assured the bench that there no trees are being felled at present.
However, advocate M Z Chaudhary appearing for Dubey, contended that cutting of trees is going on.

Dubey, in his petition, has opposed grant of sanction for any new project or for expansion of existing units till an action plan for improving environmental quality of the areas is implemented.

The petition has sought that existing power plants and other industries in the area be directed to install modern devices and equipment for controlling or minimising pollution they are allegedly causing.

He has also alleged that the Vindhyachal, Rihand and Singrauli thermal power stations run by NTPC as well as the activities of other industries in the two districts are causing serious respiratory ailments, cancer, etc in the people of the area due to discharge of mercury, fly ash and other effluents.

The petition also alleged that fly ash is being disposed of by the industries in the Rihand river as well as canals and ponds due to which the water in the area has become "highly polluted" and unfit for human or animal consumption.

Dubey in his petition has also sought directions restraining dumping of fly ash in rivers, ponds and canals of the two districts and constitution of an appropriate monitoring committee "to ensure effective, time bound and transparent implementation" of the environment laws.