Gujarat High Court stays construction work at Mundra SEZ #goodnews


Author(s): Anupam Chakravartty, downtoearth
Date: Feb 14, 2013

12 companies had gone ahead with construction of individual units despite court questioning commencement of work without environment clearance

imageDredging on the Mundra coast has destroyed more than 1,000 ha of mangroves (Photo: Vaibhav Raghunandan )

The Gujarat High Court has ordered a stay on the construction of individual units in Gujarat‘s Mundra special economic zone (SEZ). These companies were going ahead with construction in spite of the court’s last year’s order that halted work because the developer had commenced work without obtaining the mandatory environmental clearance first. These individual units have imported goods and availed duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore till now and were operating without any environmental clearance.

The multi-product Rs 14,000 crore SEZ in Kutch is being developed by Adani Enterprises which had started building roads and flyovers, and a joint venture company, Alstom SA Bharat, had started construction work for its power project in the SEZ when the high court halted work at the site last year. But some other companies went ahead with construction of their individual units.

On Thursday, the Gujarat High Court ordered a stay on the construction of these individual units in the SEZ as well. The order was given on a petition by the affected villagers who challenged the construction of these units without environmental clearance.

In all, 12 companies were found constructing their units in the SEZ, prompting the filing of a fresh petition. “We filed a fresh petition as the construction continued without any environmental clearance,” says the legal counsel for the affected village residents, Anand Yagnik.

A bench comprising chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala issued notices to all the 12 companies. The bench also sent notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the managers of the SEZ. The next hearing is likely in another 15 days. Adani or the individual companies were not available to comment on the latest court order.

According to one of the petitioners, Jajubha Bhimji Jadeja, a resident of Navinal village in Kutch, the 12 companies not only developed their units but also imported goods worth Rs 2,086.89 crore in 2010-11 and exported goods worth Rs 302 crore. “Further, the companies also received an import duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore in spite of no environment clearance from MoEF,” said Jadeja in the fresh petition.

Earlier, fisher people of  Navinal had filed a petition, saying their daily fish catch has been affected by the construction activity at the Mundra port; the port and the SEZ are part of an integrated project. Right To Information replies and other documents showed that most of the Mundra SEZ is situated on village common land used for grazing.

On February 11, 2011, responding to a public interest petition by Mundra’s farmers, the Gujarat High Court served a notice to the Adani group and the revenue department of the Gujarat government for illegally taking 93.48 hectares (ha) of Navinal’s pastures for Mundra SEZ. Navinal is just one of 23 villages whose sarpanches sold grazing land for the project, spread over 18,000 ha, by allegedly keeping the gram sabhas (village councils) in the dark.

 

Janmorcha -Chalo Delhi- Our Country is not for Sale- Aug 21


 

In opposition to the New Land Acquisition Bill

For Land Rights and Consent of Gram Sabha in Development Planning

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi | 21-22-23 August

Various Programmes, Marches, Demonstrations Across the Country too …

Comrades, Zindabad!

For many years now, the government has been trying to bring in a bill on land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation. The country’s farmers, fishermen, landless workers, Dalits, tribals, rural folks and urban poor have been consistently giving their feedback and suggestions regarding this and engaged the government in negotiation on its provisions. The struggles for protection of natural resources continue in every corner of the country. No part of the country has been untouched by people’s struggle including Narmada, Tehri, Damodar, Koel-karo, Singur, Nandigram, Sonebhadra, Chhindwara, Lakhimpur, Bhavnagar, Mundra, Kashipur, Raigarh, Srikakulam, Wang Marathwadi, Fatehabad, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, mining areas of Central India, Mumbai, Patna, Delhi, Bangalore and other urban settlements. The list of martyrs protecting their own land from the government is steadily increasing and the number of our friends in jail is also on the rise. Thanks to mass struggles, the government and corporate interests have not been successful in their nefarious intentions.

As a result of mass struggles, land acquisition has now become a political issue. What we need now is a law that emerges out of political consensus, not a biased pro-capitalist law with a superficial name change that only increases land acquisition. The Ministry of Rural Development has introduced a combined bill and named it “Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparent Land Acquisition Bill, 2012”. Trying to reflect the commitment of the government, the Bill claims to provide a legal guarantee to project affected people and ensure transparency in the land acquisition process. However; these claims are nothing but empty !

Showing complete disdain the Ministry of Rural Development has rejected the suggestions of people’s movements and recommendations of the all party Parliamentary Standing Committee. Our struggles are not only for protecting land, water, forests and minerals but over the years been proposing a truly democratic Development Planning / Land Protection ActThe government will have to understand that infrastructural development and the foundation of urbanization cannot be laid on the graves of citizens of this country.

We reject the proposals of the Ministry of Rural Development which are in complete contrast with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, such as :

  • Government will acquire land for private projects and for PPP. We believe government must not have any such role, it can’t transfer the most valuable livelihood resources such as land, water to the profiteering bodies in the garb of ‘public interest’ and ‘public purpose’ at the cost of the livelihood of the nature based sections and working class section of society.
  • Only multiple crop agricultural land will not be acquired. Since, 75% of the agricultural land in India is rain fed and most of it single cropped, mostly held by Dalits, Adivasis and marginal farms and so it t is essential to protect them and all farm land for food security, which comes not from PDS but self sufficient agriculture.

  • The provisions of new act will not apply to 13 out of 16 central Acts including Industrial Development Act, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, National Highways Act. This means that the forcible land acquisitions and injustices will continue unabated.

  • If the acquired land is not used for five years then it will go to State Land Bank. Concept of land banks are illegal and land unutilised must go back to owners or distributed among landless people.

  • In key decision making bodies and processes, participation and consent of Gram / Basti Sabha is not recognised by the Ministry. We demand that consent and direct involvement of majority of the Gram Sabhas must be there in every project,including public projects for public purpose.

  • The provisions of Act will not apply retrospectively which means nearly 6-8 crore people who have not received proper R&R in various cases of displacement will not get justice. We demand that a National R &R Commission be formed to look in to all unsettled claims of R&R since independence.

Unfortunately, Once again the Bill has no provisions for the Urban Evictions and Displacements …

Neither the Ministry nor the Standing Committee Report has actual looked at the displacement in urban spaces. Most of these are not directly land acquisitions but they are cases of forceful evictions in the name of urban infrastructure development and beautification. We have witnessed large scale demolitions and evictions without any resettlement and rehabilitation in metros and smaller cities as well. In the name of real estate large tracts of land occupied by urban working class is being acquired, negating all provisions of the urban land ceiling act. We demand that let there be separate act which addresses the specifics of the urban conditions and ensure protection of land rights in the urban areas. Since, this Bill fails to deal with the urban situation, let this be called a ‘Rural Bill’ only.

So once again struggling mass movements from across the country will join in the Lokmorcha in New Delhi from August 21 to 23.Programs will be conducted by the Gram Sabhas and movements on those very days in respective areas warning the government against bringing anti-people laws and our resolve to protect the country’s natural resources from acquisition for private profit. The government must bring out a white paper with information of usage of all the land acquired since Independence, people displaced as a result, rehabilitation efforts and details of incomplete land reform and only then there can be any discussion on the land use changes even for public purpose. We won’t let the sacrifices of those martyred protecting land, water and forests in various struggles go waste, their families will be part of the country wide events and we will hold the government accountable.

Let us come together at Jantar Mantar, in front of the Parliament; and in our farms, villages, districts, cities and struggle areas and tell the government that we will not allow displacement in the name of development and will not allow the legislation of any destructive or pro-capitalist laws in our name. Do join in force with your banners, flags, slogans, struggle photographs, films, and literature. Let us show the capitalists and ruling classes that sacrifices for community control over natural resources will continue whenever they will attempt forcible acquisition !

We will fight for our freedom, for our community rights!

Required for the program: Volunteers for different tasks and support for food, tent, organising, etc. Please stay in touch for more information.

In solidarity, SANGHARSH members

Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Ashok Choudhary, Munnilal – National Forum of Forest people and Forest Workers (NFFPFW); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan, NAPM, Odisha; Roma, Shanta Bhattacharys, Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, UP – NFFPFW; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Guman Singh – Him Neeti Abhiyan, HP; Ulka Mahajan, Suniti SR, Prasad Bagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch and NAPM, Maharashtra; Dr.Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; Shaktiman Ghosh – National Hawker Federation, NAPM; Bhupendra Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Anita Kapoor – Jan Sangharsh Vahini and NAPM, Delhi; Akhil Gogoi – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, NAPM, Assam; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Sumit Banjale, Madhuri Shivkar, Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai;Mata Dayal – Birsa Munda Land Rights Forum and NFFPFW, MP; Dr.Rupesh Verma – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, UP; Manish Gupta – Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai – Maatu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand;Vilas Bhongade – Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra; Ramashray Singh – Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Jharkhand; Anand Mazhgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Rajneesh, Ramchander Rana, Kadma Devi, Tharu, Aadivasi, evam Tarai Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Manch, UP, NFFPFW

For more details contact : – Sangharsh, C/O, NAPM 6/6 Jangpura B, New Delhi – 110014

Sheila – 9212587159/9818411417, Sanjeev – 99958797409, Shweta – 9911528696

email : action2007@gmail.comnapmindia@gmail.com

#Tata Mundra Project Under Investigation for Social and Environmental Policy Violations


 
Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti

Bhadreshwar, Mundra, Gujarat

___________________________________________________________________

 

Press Statement

New Delhi, August 6, 2012

 

Tata Mundra Project Under Investigation for Social and Environmental Policy Violations;

If Confirmed, Project Could Face Serious Repercussions

 

After a year of preliminary enquiry, and first of its kind in India for any projects, the recourse mechanism of International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) has ordered a full investigation into the serious social and environmental policy violations by the Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL – Tata Mundra project).  Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS) welcomes the decision.

 

With this, the first Ultra Mega Power Project in India to get clearance, Tata Mundra, which is running the risk of turning financially non-viable due to the decision of Indonesian government for revising its coal export pricing structure, which effectively doubled prices, is on dock for its poor social and environmental track-record, something which they camouflage behind claims of ‘responsible corporate citizen’. In the case of full investigation confirming the policy breaches, the project could face serious repercussions.

 

The key focus of the investigation, among others, will be on:

 

·         whether the IFC exercised due diligence in reviewing CGPL’s environmental and social assessments

·         whether IFC gave adequate consideration to the cumulative impacts o Adani Power and the construction of the Mundra West Port

·         whether IFC’s assessment of community support for the project was adequate, and

·         whether policies of IFC was correctly applied with regard to the complainants’ seasonal fishing settlements and fish drying areas

 

In June 2011, the people’s movement of fishing communities , MASS lodged a complaint with the CAO, raising the issues of failure to recognize large number of people as affected, loss of livelihood of thousands of fishworkers, pollution and health hazards due to fly ash, colossal destruction of mangroves and violation of environmental clearance.

 

“We are happy that CAO recognized the serious violations and have ordered a full investigation into it. We hope that they will go to the bottom of issues, investigate impartially and stop financing this project which is threatening the livelihood of thousands of fishworkers and the fragile ecology of Kutch”, said Bharat Patel, General Secretary of MASS.

 

While CAO identified key issues for investigation, we are disappointed that they decided not to look into the issues of salt-pan workers and grazers, who are also seriously impacted by the project, citing a technical reason that MASS raised these issues only in the rejoinder to the original complaint. Considering the capacity of local communities, whose access to detailed and timely information is seriously impaired, CAO should have looked into all impacts of the project, irrespective from where the information came in and when. After IFC financing a project, destroying lives of people, the onus of identifying all negative impacts should not be on the affected communities. We hope CAO will look at the issues comprehensively and not in piecemeal.

 

CAO in its report says about IFC being satisfied with the additional clearances the company obtained for changing the closed cycle cooling system into open cycle cooling system, in which the water is released to the sea at higher temperature than normal, which is detrimental to fish and other aquatic life. Any change of technology should have warranted a new Environmental Impact Assessment, including public hearings. We are not aware of any such. We hope CAO will enquire about the process which preceded change of technology.

 

Last month an eminent panel, after an independent fact finding visit to the affected areas and after extensive discussion with the company as well as communities, released its report, confirming serious social and environmental issues, depletion of fish catch since the project was commissioned, possibility of high radiation from fly ash, the company’s failure to conduct a cumulative impact assessment, communities were not adequately consulted and the project has blocked the access to fishing and grazing grounds. The panel recommended to the government to declare a moratorium on all projects in the region and recommended IFC to stop financing the project, until a comprehensive review is conducted.

 

The project is financed by IFC, Asian Development Bank, Korean ExIm Bank, State Bank of India, India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd, and other Indian banks.

 

Contact: Bharat Patel – +91-9426469803

 

Setback for OPG Power plant, Kutch,Gujarat


Buisness Standard  New Delhi Feb 15, 2012

In a major setback to OPG Power Gujarat, the National Green Tribunal has directed it to stop work at its 300 Mw thermal power plant at Bhadreshwar, Gujarat.

The ongoing construction work was challenged before the Tribunal by fisherfolk, saltpan workers and local villagers. The Tribunal said till all approvals were obtained by the project proponent, no construction activity should take place, said Ritwik Dutta, legal counsel for the appellants.

The Tribunal is a specialised body having the expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. It was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection.

OPG Power started construction work without the required approvals, including those under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and CRZ clearance. This projectis located in Mundra Taluk, Kutch district.

On its website, the company had said “work had begun on the site. The generating plants are scheduled to be commissioned in 2013.”

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) earlier this month had issued a showcause notice to OPG Power, seeking explanation on the violation of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification, 2011, in the construction of the plant in the ecologically sensitive Bhadreshwar coast.

In the showcause notice, it has asked the company why the clearance issued to it in September 2011 under the CRZ notification should not be kept in abeyance after cases of violations by the company surfaced.

The NGT in its judgment cited the environmental clearance letter, which clearly stipulates that the project proponent shall not start any construction or project enabling activities unless and until environmental clearance as well as all requisite prior permission and clearances are obtained.

Background

Following mass protests in Kutch along the sea shore, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has issued a strongly-worded notice to OPG Power Gujarat Ltd, currently involved in building a 300 MW power plant in Mundra taluka ofKutchdistrict, saying it has violated provisions of the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) notification of 2011. The plant is being built near village Bhadreshwar, about 25 kilometres from theMundraPortand about 48 kilometres from the Kandla port, and its ultimate goal is to expand its capacity to 2,600 MW.

The notice, dated February 6, 2012, and sent to the OPG’s head office in Chennai, says, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) appraised the project twice, on February 14-15, 2011, and April 5-6, 2011. However, the OPG failed to bring to the notice of the EAC the “involvement of forest land.” Scheduled to be commissioned in 2013, equipment has been ordered from the vendors, including Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, to complete the work on the plant. OPG hired Tata Consulting Engineers for providing engineering expertise and Gannon Dunkerley for civil construction.

The notice said, OPG in its justification of the violation argued that after obtaining CRZ clearance in November 2011 it “became aware that that the most viable route for the sea water pipelines would pass through a very small tract of land, which is forest land, and it applied to the deputy conservator of forests for diversion of 3.68 hectares (ha) forest land for laying down the proposed sea water pipelines.” Rejecting the argument, the notice underlined, “Disclosure of information after appraisal of the project amounts to suppression of information by the project proponent before the Ministry and EAC at the time of appraisal.”

Citing rules, the notice said, “If a project involves forest as well as non-forest land, work should be started till approval of the Central government for release of forest land under the Act has been given.” Given this situation, the OPG has been asked to give an explanation within a fortnight, as “CRZ clearance issued to the project cannot be kept in abeyance.” If no response is received, the notice warns, the MoEF will be obliged to take “appropriate orders” without any further notice.

Among those opposing the OPG’s power project include fisherworkers, salt pan workers and grazing communities living on the Bhadreshwar coast, who believe that the plant as serious impacts as it would bring about adverse impact on their livelihoods. They have held several protests since 2009 under the banner of Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), a fishworker’s trade union.

The OPG Group’s initial public hearing in 2009 to set up the 300 MW thermal plant was met with stiff opposition from local communities whose livelihoods were under threat due to the project. While theGujaratgovernment’s State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) was still deliberating on the issue, OPG applied to MoEF for expansion to 2600 MW. “The pending approval from the SEIAA was not at all mentioned in the application to the MoEF”, a MASS statement said, adding, “This piece of information was only revealed when an RTI application was filed by MASS.”

MASS statement statement further said, “On September 16, 2011 the company got its approval under the CRZ notification, but with a long list of conditions attached. However, the forest permission (needed to convert lands for non-forest use) was granted. Yet, the company started its construction and went ahead without obtaining necessary clearances.” MASS wrote a letter dated November 1, 2011 to the Union environment minister, forest department, police department officials highlighting this violation and urging immediate action. Yet, it fell on deaf ears, till the latest notice to OPG on February 6, 2012.

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