Activists opposing the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri district will challenge the environment impact assessment (EIA) clearance granted to the project before the National Green Tribunal, in two weeks.
“The environmental clearance was not just based on environment aspects but more on the country’s strategic interests with France. The environment minister (Jairam Ramesh) has also stated this very categorically while giving the clearance,” said Dr Vivek Bhide, anti-nuclear activist. “Objections to public hearing will also be submitted to the tribunal.”
The tribunal, set up by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to expedite environment-related cases, started functioning from Monday.
Last December, the Jaitapur project got a green nod with 35 riders. While granting the clearance, the MoEF relied heavily on the biodiversity report prepared by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as against the EIA report prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
The BNHS report recognised the presence of flora, fauna—both marine and on land—at and around the nuclear plant site, and mapped 407 hectares mangrove vegetation around a 10km radius of the plant area and in some affected villages.
The official NEERI report described the land as “rocky and barren with no habitation and vegetation” and hence the plant would not have an ecological impact.
“We are also challenging the 2001 seismic zone maps in the EIA. In last ten years, geothermal energies may have caused changes in the earth’s plates,” said Bhide.
Headed by former Supreme Court judge LS Panta, the tribunal, headquartered in Delhi, will have circuit branches in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata and Chennai. The ruling given by the tribunal can be challenged in the Supreme Court.
About 5,000 environment cases, pending in various courts of the country, can be transferred to the tribunal by July 31. India is the third country to have a green court after New Zealand and Australia.