Green tribunal asks Centre, State to reply to petition

The environmental clearance given to the Rs.5,000-crore Vizhinjam sea port has come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Bench.

Admitting an appeal that challenged the clearances given to the project, the tribunal Bench on Friday directed the Union government, the Kerala government, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board, and Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd. to file their replies on April 25. The appeal seeks to know if there is any procedural lapse on the part of the authorities in giving clearance for the project.

The Bench, comprising its judicial member Justice M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendran, said, “The appeal raised an important question concerned with environment.”

The appeal was filed by social workers A. Joseph Vijayan and P. Michael and fisherman of Poonthura P. Christopher. They challenged the environmental clearance and coastal regulation zone clearance for the port, to be developed in open sea by reclaiming coastal waters.

They submitted that fishermen and their families at Poonthura were affected by shoreline changes, which were occurring because of structures put up along the foreshore and construction of port structures.

The appellants said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had granted the environmental clearance to the project proponent without considering the deleterious effects of the proposed port on the rich, diverse, and pristine marine environment of the coastal waters owing to reclamation and construction of artificial structures. The impact on the fragile coastal land owing to shoreline changes as a result of construction of artificial support structures for the port such as breakwaters was also overlooked. The Ministry did not consider the plight of the fishermen and the thousands of people living in the area while granting the clearance.

The appellants also said the public hearing was not conducted in accordance with the procedure provided in the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.