New Delhi: The environment ministry has appointed an expert committee under Sunita Narain, the director general of Centre for Science and Environment, an activist body, to inspect Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd at Mundra in Gujarat.
The ministry said in an internal note dated 14 September that the panel will examine “whether construction of Mundra port, roads, railway was taken up prior to the grant of forest/environment clearance...; compliance to the conditions of the environmental and CRZ (coastal regulation zone) clearance granted for the port development...” and other issues.
“This committee has been set up based on the complaints received by the ministry,” Narain said.
A spokesperson for Adani said in a text message, “We haven’t received any direct intimation and hence we would not like to comment.”
The port at Mundra attracted controversy even before it was first given conditional environment clearance in 2009. Bharat Patel, general secretary of Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, an activist group representing the interests of fishermen in the area, claimed the group started developing the port and special economic zone (SEZ) even before it obtained a clearance from the environment ministry. Mint couldn’t independently confirm this.
“Since the area is an ecologically secure area, Adani was told not to disturb the creek, the sand dunes, mangroves, among other conditions but they did everything that the ministry told them not to do,” alleged Naran Gadhavi, the president of Kheti Vikas Seva Trust, a trust set up by local farmers.
“The then environment minister Jairam Ramesh formed a committee to look into the violations and a show-cause notice issued in 2010 revealed violations related to construction of airport, township and hospital without prior environmental clearance,” Patel added.
Kheti Vikas Seva Trust filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat high court in 2011 alleging violation of the conditions under which the environment clearance was given. The Kheti Vikas Seva Trust and the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan have repeatedly highlighted alleged environmental violations by the company while developing the project. Both of them complained to the ministry and sought the creation of a committee to look into the issue.
The 14 September note said the committee is being set up as “complaints have been received...regarding severe impact upon environment safety and integrity...by Adani Port and SEZ Ltd.”
The other members in the committee are Anthony Gnanamuthu, R. Ramesh, who is a member of the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA), and A. Mehrotra and Lalit Kapur from the environment ministry.
“We will hold the first meeting of the committee on 27 September,” Narain said.
The committee is to submit its report within three months.
Maulik Pathak in Ahmedabad and Utpal Bhaskar in New Delhi contributed to this story.