Decks have been cleared for approving eight salt manufacturing projects in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat which were stuck for almost two years because of environmental concerns.
The development came after environment ministry concluded that salt manufacturing units do not require environmental approval. They are not covered under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006. Removing another legal hurdle, the ministry said that salt pans coming within 10km of a national park or a sanctuary are not covered under the guidelines of national board for wildlife.
The eight salt manufacturing units are proposed within 10 km of Marine National Sanctuary in Jamnagar and the ministry’s statutory committee to consider projects on forest land – Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) – cleared them last week.
Two years ago the same committee had said that the proposals should be referred to the standing committee for its view. The FAC also wanted a socio-ecological study to understand impact of large scale salt manufacturing on the local population.
“The committee was of the view that the proposals of sale production involve large tracts of land. There is a need to these cases in totality from the angle of avian faunal and floral biodiversity which can be done by referring all the cases to the wildlife board,” the FAC had said in August 2011.
Although not much happened on FAC recommendations for almost two years, the ministry swung into action in March. In all, about 500 hectares of rich mangrove land — considered as forest as per Supreme Court directions— would have to be diverted.
“Salt harvesting by solar evaporation of sea water is permissible with prior approval of state Coastal Zone Management Committee,” the ministry had said and negated the FAC recommendation to refer the proposals to the wildlife board.