NGT suspends environmental clearance for JSW’s mega steel project in Odisha
In April last year, the ministry accorded environmental clearance to the 13.2 million tonnes per annum integrated steel project pegged at ₹65,000 crore following the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC
A four-member bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the Sajjan Jindal-owned JSW Steel near Paradip port of Odisha.
The bench headed by justice Adarsh Kumat Goel suspended the EC on the grounds that it was given without considering the cumulative Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), evaluation of the permissibility of sourcing water from Mahanadi river and the social impact assessment conducted after the public hearing, among other issues.
The NGT asked the union environment ministry to do a fresh appraisal in the next three months pending which the EC will remain suspended.
In April last year, the ministry accorded environmental clearance to the 13.2 million tonnes per annum integrated steel project pegged at ₹65,000 crore following the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
The project has also faced protests from local political leaders and residents of Dhinkia and nearby villages against land acquisition.
The land where the plant is coming up was once allocated to Korean steel behemoth Posco, but the project never got off the ground as protests over land acquisition forced the company to abandon it in 2017, nearly 13 years after it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Odisha government.
Last year, social activists Prafulla Samantra and Sarita Barapanda moved the NGT opposing the EC grant to the steel project arguing that the appraisal conducted by the EAC is procedurally, as well as, substantively erroneous and detrimental to the environment.
The petitioners alleged that water would be sourced from the Mahanadi river which is a major source of water supply to the inhabitants, apart from adding pollution to the area, resulting in reduced forest cover and would have a major impact on the flora and fauna in an eco-sensitive area.
The bench which heard the matter over months said that the EAC recommendation for the environmental clearance of the project had several issues, including the publication of a cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) after the public hearing got over.
“Permissibility of sourcing water from Mahanadi when drinking water is scarce has not been duly evaluated. The jetty is located within 500 meters of the Paradip Port which is unnecessary. The Strategic Impact Assessment (SIA) was conducted later and was not part of the public hearing,” the bench said.
A company official said the NGT order was meant for the union environment ministry and they have nothing to comment on it.
The bench said that the matter will need a fresh appraisal by the EAC by reasoned consideration and a fresh decision by the union environment ministry.
The tribunal allowed these appeals and remitted the matter to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change of India (MoEF&CC) for fresh appraisal and decision in light of the above observations.
“The ministry of environment, forest and climate change of India has been asked to do a fresh appraisal within the next three months. The suspension of EC is a temporary thing,” said a company official on the condition of anonymity.