The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday sought response of the Centre, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as well as several industries, including Essar and Hindalco, on a plea opposing new power projects in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts due to environment concerns.
A bench headed by Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Centre, state governments and several industries, including the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Ltd -- an upcoming 3,960 MW coal based power plant of Reliance Power, and sought their replies by October 7.
Alleging that pollution and serious ailments are being caused due to coal mining as well as emissions of thermal power stations there, the 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, by Supreme Court lawyer Ashwani Kumar Dubey, also raises 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).
In support of his contention, Mr. Dubey has referred to a 2010 letter written by the then Environment minister Jairam Ramesh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that the proposal to grant stage-I clearance to Mahan coal block of Essar and Hindalco is under consideration as the mine is in an area which is a ‘no go zone’ having “good biodiversity”.
Mr. Ramesh had also said in his letter that a forest advisory committee (FAC) is considering Essar’s proposal for clearance and has decided to send an expert team to assess the impact of the project as it is a “sensitive case”, the petition said.
The petition said that a sub-committee of the FAC on the basis of inspection of the Mahan coal block area had observed that permission to divert forest land to Essar be withheld.
Essar had sought forest clearance for its 1200 MW thermal power project in Singrauli which would obtain coal from the Mahan coal block, the petition, filed through advocates M Z Chaudhary and Avinash Prasad, said.
Mr. Dubey in his plea sought that Essar and Hindalco be restrained from cutting trees or starting their project alleging that they have not been granted the requisite clearances from MoEF.
He also sought that the existing power plants and other industries there be directed to install modern devices and equipment for controlling or minimising pollution they are allegedly causing.
He 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 the 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.
Keywords: National Green Tribunal, NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, pollution issue, new power plants, Singrauli district, Sonebhadra district, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, forest advisory committee