The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the environment ministry to keep in abeyance eight fold expansion granted to Pipavava Port, one of the largest private sector ports in western coastal state of Gujarat.
The tribunal bench headed by Justice VR Kingaonkar said that the ministry took the words of the project proponents as “gospel truth” without any independent application of mind regarding issues raising at a public hearing.
Two Amreli based organizations have challenged the environment clearance for expansion granted to the port in 2012, meaning a three times increase in the current length for handling 26 million tonnes of bulk and about 8 times of container capacity.
The environment ministry had allegedly granted approval without concerns raised by locals with regard to the health impact due to coal dust, increased salinity, violations of environmental laws, increase in road traffic, decline in fish catch and loss of agricultural crops.
“The appraisal could not have been done by the EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee) only on basis of the compliance reportedly done by the Project Proponent. It should also examine viability of the project on account of the expansion proposed,” the tribunal said.
It also said that observations of the EAC show the presentation made by the project proponent was accepted as “gospel truth”. The tribunal was also critical of the casual manner adopted by the ministry in examining the environment impact assessment report.
Unlike the ministry, the NGT considered each and every objection raised by the public and asked the EAC to do the same. The decision of the NGT is significant since it reemphasizes the duty of both the ministry and the EAC to record reasons, something it fails to do repeatedly.