Vadhavan Port: Centre order will replace dissenting members of Dahanu authority | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Vadhavan Port: Centre order will replace dissenting members of Dahanu authority

ByPrayag Arora-Desai
Mar 14, 2023 12:26 AM IST

The members who will be replaced include Shyam Asolekar (professor of environmental science at IIT-B), Vidyadhar Deshpande (former town planner, Maharashtra) and Kulbushan Jain (professor emeritus, CEPT University, Ahmedabad), who have been Authority members for over two decades.

Mumbai: The Union environment ministry has amended the Dahanu notification (1991) in a way that will replace three long-standing members of the Supreme Court-appointed Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA). At a recent hearing of the Authority on February 13, the three members had raised concerns over the environmental and social impact of the proposed Vadhavan mega-port in Dahanu taluka, Palghar.

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HT Image

A copy of the notification to this effect (dated March 10) is with HT.

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The members who will be replaced include Shyam Asolekar (professor of environmental science at IIT-B), Vidyadhar Deshpande (former town planner, Maharashtra) and Kulbushan Jain (professor emeritus, CEPT University, Ahmedabad), who have been Authority members for over two decades.

They have been replaced, respectively, with the current head of department, environmental engineering, IIT-B, and the current deputy secretary to the urban development department, Maharashtra. Jain’s position will now be occupied by the dean or head of department, faculty of architecture, CEPT University.

Asolekar and Deshpande declined to comment when contacted by HT, while Jain could not be reached despite efforts.

“This amendment is well within the bounds of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India (MoEFCC), but the timing is obviously a suspect,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust, and an invitee of the DTEPA. At the DTEPA’s last hearing, Asolekar had flayed the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority’s (JNPA) environment impact assessment (EIA) report for Vadhavan Port, saying, “This document does not have dates anywhere. No monitored data is provided with dates of samples collected. Whatever Draft EIA Report’ submitted to us is frankly superficial.”

Asolekar also called into question the rigour of a key report — by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) — which formed the basis for a MoEFCC directive on May 26, 2022, which paved the way for the construction of ports and harbours in the Dahanu eco-sensitive zone (ESZ). Asolekar had criticised the report for being based solely on secondary data, without any field observations. Jain, meanwhile, had expressed concerns over the environmental and socio-economic impact of landward development which will come about due to the port, such as the movement of 30-40,000 trucks a day in the region.

The SC established the DTEPA in 1996 to protect India’s first notified eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in Dahanu. More than a year after the passing away of its chairperson – retired high court justice CS Dharmadhikari in early 2019 – the MoEFCC in 2020 moved the apex court seeking to scrap the DTEPA and establish a monitoring committee to perform the DTEPA’s tasks for three years in its place. This move was said to violate previous SC orders.

It was under Dharmadhikari’s tenure, in 1998, that the DTEPA declared the proposed port to be “wholly impermissible and... illegal” as it would be “detrimental to the environment and the socio-economic conditions of the Dahanu area.”

Eventually in December 2021, responding to environmentalists’ demands and with legal proceedings pending in the HC and SC, the central government disbanded the ad hoc committee and subsequently reconstituted the DTEPA in February 2022, appointing former justice AB Chaudhari as the chairperson.

HT reached out to the MoEFCC spokesperson, but did not receive a response as of Monday evening.

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