A court on Monday cancelled environment approval to French giant Lafarge’s cement plant in Himachal Pradesh on the ground that environmental ministry failed to take into account environmental and social concerns while approving the R900 crore project.
It is first time the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has cancelled environment clearance to the firm.
Before the apex court delivers its final view, the authority dealt a severe blow to the firm saying “it is convinced that it is neither desirable to mine Telehan village not put up cement plant in Ghanger (both in Karsog area of Himachal’s Mandi district),” authority member G.C. Kala said, in his order after visiting the site in June 2010.
The environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) had cleared the project in June 2009, two years after state government’s approval.
However, the locals filed an appeal challenging the clearance. “Both EAC and the ministry have not correctly assessed the impact of the project on land, water and air,” the order delivered on Monday said.
A Lafarge spokesperson refuted allegations on violating environment norms saying it had always acted in good faith and remains committed to the compliance of all environment laws.
Contrary to company claims, Kala found that incorrect information was provided to obtain clearance. The first instance was the distance between Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary and the project site. The firm said it was more than 10 km away whereas the authority found it was less than 5 km.
“Discussions with chief wildlife warden reveal the plant is bound to create disturbances to the animals,” the order read.
The firm had also told the authority that the mining area was not cultivable land but the claim was found to be “untrue”.
Kala also questioned the way clearance was given. “The dispossession, impoverishment and trauma attached to displacement have neither been captured by the Environment Impact Assessment nor appreciated by the EAC or the state.”
Lafarge’s limestone mining project in Meghalaya is already under apex court scanner for alleged violations of the Forest Conservation Act.