Adani-Hazira Port (AHPPL) on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) order that quashed environmental clearance (EC) granted to its ambitious port project in Hazira near Surat and also imposed a penalty of `25 crore for restoration of damaged environment.
Challenging the Pune-based Western Zone bench of NGT’s January 8 order, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the port, told the bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur that the green tribunal had asked the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) whether it had done an environment compliance audit of the port and after the ministry replied in negative the environment clearance was set aside.
According to Adani, the tribunal had, contrary to the pleadings as well as the documents, erroneously recorded that AHPP was granted EC and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance by the MoEF on June 26, 2003, despite it having clearly stated that it was Hazira Port (HPPL) which was granted EC on that date and not AHPPL. “The tribunal has failed to take note of the fact that AHPPL was incorporated only on September 25, 2010,” it said.
The senior counsel further said the company has been submitting the environment compliance reports regularly and if those reports have not been audited the company cannot be held responsible for that.
The company has had an environment clearance since 2003, which is even before the NGT was set up, so the tribunal does not even have the right to set aside the clearance, he added. The apex court will further hear the matter on January 28.
The NGT had on January 8 also ruled that EC, granted by MoEF, in 2013 for further development of the port at Hazira, is illegal. The order was passed on a petition filed by Hazira Fishermen Committee that challenged the multi-crore infrastructure project on the ground that besides damaging the ecology, the project has also displaced more than 300 poor fishermen families, who cannot do fishing in the area as their access have been blocked.
Following a complaint filed by Hazira Machchimaar Samiti before NGT it was revealed that the document of environment clearance granted to Hazira port in year 2013 was not valid. Construction work was started by company without approval. According to a pact signed with the Gujarat Maritime Board in April – 2002, the company had to plant mangrove in 550 hectare land but plantation was not done. “It is evident from the affidavit of the forest department that this area, which once had abundance of mangrove stretches, presently don’t have any mangrove vegetation, clearly indicating the environmental degradation and damage,” the Bench noted, rejecting the contention of the Adani group that the mangrove have not been destroyed.
Coming down heavily on the Adani group entity, the NGT observed, “the fact remains that undaunted by absence of EC and CRZ clearance, the AHPPL proceeded with expansion work after 2007 and did not care for any adverse order or impact on environment. Such irresponsible attitude must be deprecated.”
“What we find from the record is that instead of expanding port work in phase-out manner, expansion was already practically done almost without obtaining EC and CRZ clearance,” the January 8 order stated.