CHENNAI: The National Green Tribunal in New Delhi has suspended the environmental clearance (EC) given to the Chennai-based IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company to set up five units of coal-fired thermal power stations with a combined capacity of 3,600 MW in Cuddalore district. The principal bench of the tribunal, in its order on Wednesday, also ordered the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to conduct a ‘carrying capacity study’ taking into account the assimilating and supportive capacity the Cuddalore region, which is in close proximity to the Pichavaram mangroves. Justice A S Naidu (acting chairperson) and G K Pandey (expert member) partly allowed the appeal by former president of Killai panchayat, T Murugandam, and two members of SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors, T Arulselvam and S Ramanathan and said that the appellants may be heard before the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) or the MoEF took a decision.
The appellants had sought the quashing of the EC given to the plant on May 31, 2010 without considering the serious objections and concerns raised during a public hearing held on February 5, 2010. Among the concerns were the adverse impact on marine environment and fishing community, environment pollution, inadequate Environment Impact Assessment report and increase in temperature of sea water.
Stating that there should have been more transparency in the EIA process, the tribunal directed the MoEF and State Pollution Control Board to publish all relevant documents relating to grant of nod and monitoring of clearance and consent conditions on the website, and asked project proponents to periodically publish and update reports stating the status of their compliance to conditions issued under their various environmental
“We feel vindicated, particularly by NGT’s direction to conduct a carrying capacity study, as such a study was recommended by the Asian Development Bank in 1994 and by NEERI in 1998 considering the already polluted state of the region,” said Ramanathan, one of the
Villagers in the Cuddalore region have resisted industrialisation after seeing its effects on water, agriculture, air and health in and around SIPCOT Cuddalore, in whose close proximity the plant has been proposed to be set up.
Cuddalore activists say that the order relating to carrying capacity has tremendous value as a precedent, as such a study would be warranted in any place that is already industrialised or is proposed to be industrialised. Cuddalore is slotted for intensive industrialisation, with several power plants, associated captive jetties, desalination plants and a massive refinery, all of which are to be located between SIPCOT and Pichavaram.
Activists also welcomed the order directing the State boards and Environment Ministry to publish details about licenses granted, the
conditions and the reports of compliance monitoring. They said this would lead to greater transparency, and will enhance the ability of communities to monitor and report violations.
Advocates Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary appeared for the appellants.