The National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has quashed the environmental clearance given by the Centre for construction of the controversial coal-based thermal power plant at Sompeta in Srikakulam district.

This should bring to an end the months-old agitation by the people who said the project would harm their livelihood.

Protests continued in spite of the “repeated threats” issued by district authorities, culminating in firing by the police in which two people were killed.

Delivering its order a day after the firing at Sompeta, the Authority termed the clearance given by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests “bad” and “based on wrong information.”

It said that no project should be cleared in Srikakulam pending a survey of all wetlands in the district for their ecological sensitiveness.

NEAA member J.C. Kala heard the arguments, challenging the clearance given for the project by a group of voluntary organisations, including the Forum for Better Visakha which alleged that the government had suppressed the overwhelming opposition to the project.

The land allotted to the power plant had been shown as barren and wasteland while it was, in fact, a source of livelihood to hundreds of poor families.

Mr. Kala agreed with the claim, saying the land was typical wetland of great ecological importance and source of water supply for nearby villages upon which three important lift irrigation schemes depended.

Stating that the reports submitted by various agencies, including a sub-committee of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), were found to be ‘misleading' and the EAC was also “carried away” by these reports, the NEAA asked the Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) to look for an alternative site.

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