The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from the ministry of environment and forest and the Gujarat government on a plea by Adani Hazira Port (AHPPL) challenging the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order that quashed environmental clearance (EC) granted to its ambitious port project in Hazira near Surat and imposed a penalty of Rs 25 crore for the restoration of damaged environment.
While refusing to stay the NGT’s order, a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also issued a notice to the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority along with Hazira Machimar Samiti, the fishermen body that had filed the complaint in the NGT.
It also said that the impugned order seemed to apply so far to only construction work in the port so the port may remain operational if the company has other requisite permissions. But it added that no further construction work will be allowed in the reclamation area of the port till further orders.
Adani senior counsel P Chidambarm said Hazira port’s environmental clearance was acquired in 2003 and was renewed in 2013 with additional permission to handle liquid cargo, but it was set aside by the green tribunal.
He argued that the tribunal had committed at least 20 errors in its order.
Challenging the January 8 order of the Pune-based Western Zone bench of the NGT, Adani said that the tribunal had, contrary to the pleadings as well as the documents, erroneously recorded that AHPP was granted EC and CRZ clearance by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on June 26, 2003, despite it having clearly stated that it was Hazira Port Pvt Ltd (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 company has had an environment clearance since 2003, even before the NGT was set up, so the tribunal does not even have the right to set aside the clearance, the petition said.
The NGT had on January 8 also ruled that the environment clearance (EC), granted by the MoEF in 2013 for further development of the port at Hazira, is illegal.
The NGT order came 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 the NGT, it was revealed that the document of environment clearance granted to Hazira port in 2013 was not valid. Construction work was started by company without approval. Under 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.