NGT lambasts Adani group for environment damage in Hazira

Updated - September 23, 2016 12:46 am IST

Published - January 16, 2016 08:21 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

In a setback to Gujarat-based Adani group, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has quashed environmental clearance (EC) to its ambitious port project in Hazira, south Gujarat and imposed a heavy penalty of Rs. 25 crore for restoration of environment that has been damaged and degraded.

The tribunal passed its order on a petition filed by Hazira Fishermen Committee that challenged the multi-crore infrastructure project on the ground that besides damaging the ecology, the project has also displaced more than 300 poor fishermen families, who cannot do fishing in the area as their access have been blocked.

In its order dated January 8th, the NGT's western zone Bench on Pune held that the environmental clearance granted to the port project in 2013 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, is "illegal and must be set aside."

"It is evident from the affidavit of the forest department that this area, which once had abundance of mangrove stretches, presently don’t have any mangrove vegetation, clearly indicating the environmental degradation and damage," the Bench noted, rejecting the contention of the Adani group that the mangrove have not been destructed as alleged by the petitioners.

"What we find from the record is that instead of expanding port work in phase-out manner, expansion was already practically done almost without obtaining environmental clearance and coastal regulation zone (CEZ) clearance."

Coming down heavily on the Adani group entity Adani Hazira Port Private Ltd (AHPPL), the Bench observed, "The fact remains that undaunted by absence of EC and CRZ clearance, the AHPPL proceeded with expansion work after 2007 and did not care for any adverse order or impact on environment. Such irresponsible attitude must be deprecated."

According to the Bench of Justice VR Kingaonkar, the respondent AHPPL is liable to pay Rs 25 crore as an amount of penalty for restoration while restraining the company from closing or narrowing down mouth of the creek or access of the boats of traditional fishermen in the village.

"This area is very rich in ecology and environment but massive industrialization is destroying the mangrove stretches and coastal forest, which is a natural habitat of vultures," said MSH Sheikh, a Surat based environment activist, who provided legal and technical help to the fishermen in their petition.

Led by billionaire Gautam Adani, the Adani group is a leading conglomerate having interests in port, power, exports, mining and other sectors. The group operates country's largest private sector port and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Mundra, Kutch in Gujarat and has ports in Goa, Vishakhapatnam, Odisha and Kerala.

In Hazira, the group is setting up a multi berth dry and liquid cargo port with other infrastructure facilities like storage. The Adani group refused to comment on the NGT's order for its Hazira port.

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