Environment ministry issues show-cause notice to Mundra Port

Environment ministry issues show-cause notice to Mundra Port

New Delhi: The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has served a show-cause notice on Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Ltd (MPSEZ) for alleged violation of coastal zone regulations, the latest in a slew of actions taken by the ministry for suspected breaches of environmental rules.

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The notice, posted on the ministry’s website, has asked MPSEZ, promoted by the Adani Group, to respond within 15 days as to why the environmental clearance granted to the project should not be revoked.

The notice was issued after a visit by ministry officials to the port located in Mundra, Gujarat, on 6-7 December. Officials of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat Ecology Commission also took part in the site visit. According to a report based on the visit, large-scale reclamation has been carried out using dredged material on mangrove areas. A pipeline for the disposal of dredged material is obstructing tidal flows in the area, resulting in the drying up of mangroves at several places.

An Adani group spokesperson said the work carried out at Mundra was “in compliance with clearance". “We are studying the issues raised by the MoEF and will respond to them in due course of time. Operations at Mundra are normal as usual," said the spokesperson.

The MoEF has taken action in several cases involving suspected breaches of environmental regulations. Notices have recently been issued to the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai that allegedly allotted apartments to bureaucrats, ministers and military officials in a housing tower meant for Kargil war widows; the Lavasa housing project in Maharashtra; and a Jindal Power and Steel project in Orissa. The ministry has also blocked Vedanta Resources Plc’s proposed mining project in Orissa.

Some critics have branded minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh as anti-development because of the crackdown. Ramesh has maintained that he is only implementing environment laws that have been passed by Parliament and not being anti-development. (Mint interview, 20 November).

The Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, a Bhadreshwar-based trade union for fishworkers in the Kutch area of Gujarat, has been protesting against the Adani Group’s port project since 2007 and writing to MoEF.

“The mangrove area was cut without permission, which was about 1,000ha," said Bharat Patel, secretary of the union. “Last year we had posed this to the minister during coastal regulation consultations and he had promised a committee."

According to the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, construction and development activities such as reclamation and destruction of mangroves are prohibited.

Areas that are ecologically sensitive such as mangroves, areas close to breeding and spawning grounds of fish and other marine life, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas rich in genetic diversity are protected under the notification.

The notice sent to the port also mentions that the natural flow of seawater is being obstructed by reclamation along the creeks. It also adds that the port township, known as the Samundra, and Sterling Hospital are both in the coastal regulation zone of the creek and neither have been cleared under the notification.

The clearance letter for the project, dated 12 January 2009, stipulated that no existing mangroves would be destroyed during construction and operation of the project and there would be no filling up and reclamation of the creek.