Calls the decision “timely” and “significant” for protecting water bodies
Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issues notification stopping work on cement factory being built in Bhavnagar.
Factory was being built over a water body used by farmers for irrigating their fields.
CSE had brought the case to the notice of the ministry. Its investigations had found large-scale misrepresentations and violations in the company’s EIA report.
Despite people’s opposition to the project, the state government had gone ahead and allotted the water body to the factory.
New Delhi, March 12, 2011: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the show cause notification issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to a cement factory being built in Padhiarka village, Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, for “permanent suspension of work and revocation of the environment clearance”.
The 1.91-million-tonne-per-annum cement factory, with its coke oven and captive power plants, is being built by the detergent major Nirma. The factory is being built over the Samadhiyala reservoir, a large water body constructed by the government to provide irrigation. Local farmers and villagers have been resolutely opposing this project.
Earlier in the year, CSE had brought the case to the attention of the ministry. Taking note of CSE’s objections, the ministry had sent a review committee to study the project. The committee’s report supported CSE’s contentions.
Says Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, who went to the project site to see things for herself: “We found huge violations in the environmental impact assessment report submitted by the company, which did not reveal that the project was being built on a massive water body. In fact, the company got environmental clearance saying the site was barren land.”
Deception: state hand-in-glove with industry
Unfortunately, the state government has played along with the company in this subterfuge. The land allocated to the factory by the state government has been categorised as grazing and wasteland in revenue records. It is for this reason, when the Gujarat High Court was hearing the petition of the farmers, the government argued that since the land was not listed as a water body it had the right to allocate it to industry. No protection was needed because technically there was no water body on this land!
The environmental impact assessment, used to grant clearance to the project, says the plant is situated on barren land. It does not mention the rivers that surround the site, bringing water to the reservoir. It does not even acknowledge the check dams, which the company has vandalised.
Later, when the truth of the water body was established using satellite imagery, the push was to find a compromise solution. In High Court, the farmers were told their water body would remain but only if they agreed to a partition — some 100 ha of the lake would be returned for irrigation. But they would have to agree to give away the rest, where the factory would be built.
Narain points out that “this is not a workable option at all as the plant will be located in the catchment of the water body.”
She asks: “How can we allow desecration of water and the life it gives? Will we allow the right to a common water body to be abused? This is a fight for life. The environment ministry’s decision is significant in this case. It lays down a ground rule and sets a precedent -- that there will be zero tolerance when it comes to takeover and destruction of water bodies.”
For clarifications and details, get in touch with Souparno Banerjee on 99108 64339 or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the MoEF notification, see http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/nirma.pdf