Mundra port: Adani group seeks exemption from public hearings
The Mundra port waterfront development project has sought an exemption from conducting public hearing for its expansion works, which will be considered by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) on Tuesday, according to agenda for its 48th meeting on infrastructure projects.
The move has sparked resistance from the fishing communities in villages in and around Mundra on the grounds that their point of view must be heard before granting any permissions.
On January 26, Kamlesh Gadhvi, sarpanch of the Sadau group gram panchayat in Mundra, and several other villagers, wrote to Professor T Haque, chairman of EAC, expressing their reservations against any such exemption.
In the letter, the residents demanded public hearings must be conducted because of “unresolved impacts and history of non-compliance” and “impacts of the proposed expansion”.
“As you are aware, in the 40th meeting of the EAC on April 23, 2019, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ) was categorically prescribed the ‘terms of reference (ToR) along with public hearing’ for the expansion project even after APSEZ had asked for an exemption from the public hearing process. We were encouraged to observe the position taken by the EAC directing that a public hearing is a must for this expansion…” stated the letter, a copy of which has been seen by HT.
The issues raised by the letter included alleged loss of common grazing land due to the port project in Navinal gram panchayat, damage to fishermen’s boats and nets, pending conservation plan for creeks and mangroves, and pending action plan for protection of fishermen’s livelihoods.
The letter added that the environment ministry had earlier found instances of destruction of mangroves, sand dunes, and blockage of creeks in the APSEZ area.
There are 30,000 families involved in fishing in Kutch according to Bharat Patel, general secretary of Machhimar adhikar sangarsh sangathan.
In its application for exemption, also seen by HT, APSEZ reasoned that “considering the fact that no change in the total area for the proposed expansion compared to earlier approved WFDP plan”. It added that “no land acquisition or R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) is involved for the proposed expansion project. Also APSEZ has conducted several public hearings in the region,” so it should be exempted from conducting a fresh public hearing.
But the terms of reference (ToR) for the expansion project issued by environment ministry on May 17, 2019, accessed by HT from the Union environment ministry’s Parivesh website, suggest that EAC directed APSEZ to conduct a public hearing for expansion.
Adani Group did not respond to HT’s questions on exemption of public hearing over email. An Adani Group representative said over phone that they will not comment on the issue.
“A reading of the official minutes and other project related documents reveal that EAC had considered several facts and legal requirements while insisting on a public hearing for this expansion project...,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Centre for Policy Research.
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