The Expert Committee (EC) set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on order from the Supreme Court to assess the matter of the Nirma Cement plant submitted its report to the court on May 10, 2011. The EC set up under the chairmanship of Prof. CR Babu had visited the site on April 18.
The main findings/recommendations of the report are:
The project site, allocated for the construction of the cement plant, captive power plant and a coke oven plant belonging to Nirma Limited, lies within the catchment area of the Samadhiala bandhara.
The site is classified as a wetland and a water body.
This wetland is of immense importance to the area as it helps recharge groundwater, possesses rich biodiversity, etc.
The air emissions and effluents generated by the plant operations will be detrimental to the agriculture in the area and impact the environment. The wetland will also be affected.
Two species of endangered vultures – white back and long billed, are found along the bandhara. There is a reserve forest within 10 km radius of the site which has many other threatened bird species.
Mahuva taluka is also home to Asiatic Lions as per the Gujarat Forest Department Census 2010.
The Shelat Committee recommendations will not prevent salinity ingress and in fact will have the opposite effect.
The plant should be relocated elsewhere outside the Samadhiala bandhara.
The report was discussed by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) in a meeting held on May 5. The representatives of the Gujarat government insisted in the EAC meeting that the land in question is 'wasteland' as per the revenue records. They claimed that the cement plant will not affect the environment or the bandhara in any way and endorsed the Shelat Committee recommendations. The EAC concluded the matter by saying that the land in question is indeed a wetland or a waterbody. They felt that the land should have been reclassified in the revenue records after the construction of the bandhara.
The EAC agreed with the findings of the EC report and believes that any activity that will affect the wetland or the waterbody should not be allowed in the area. It suggested that alternative sites maybe available in the vicinity and a waterbody will not be given up for a cement plant. The environmental clearance accorded to the cement plant in December 2008 hence was revoked since it was based on undisclosed and incorrect information. The Supreme Court has kept its decision on the matter on hold till May 13. CSE has been actively involved in the case and has worked closely with the local community in bringing out the flaws in the environmental clearance process.