Advocating an end to the use of drinking water in industrial projects, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to bring about certain immediate policy changes in the way environmental clearances (ECs) are being given to projects. The NGT made the observationswhile pondering the legality of environmental clearance to the controversial POSCO project.
“We are all aware that drinking water is becoming a scarce commodity in the country, and at every levelprecaution needs to be taken for protecting water that is supplied to human habitations and preventing it from being diverted for industrial use. It is always better to insist upon the project proponent/industry to create its own source of water supply particularly, when it can afford to do so,” a bench of Justice CV Ramulu and Dr Devendra Kumar Agrawal held in their order on POSCO last week.
In its directions the bench said, “MoEF shall consider feasibility of insisting upon every major industry that requires large quantity of water to have its own water resource facility rather than using/diverting the water that is being meant for drinking/irrigation purposes.”
In their order on Friday, the tribunal suspended environmental clearance granted to South Korea- based steelmaker POSCO’s over Rs 50,000 crore steel project in Odisha until a fresh review of the project is carried out. The tribunal, in its judgment, not just advocated saving drinking water but also suggested several measures to MoEF for an overall improvement of the process of granting environmental clearances.
The bench noted that “it is desirable that MoEF shall take a policy decision that in large projects like POSCO where MoUs are signed for large capacities and up-scaling is to be done within a few years, the EIA (environment impact assessment) right from the beginning should be assessed for the full capacity and EC granted on this basis.”
They also said that they find it necessary that MoEF establishes clear guidelines/directives for project developers that they need to apply for a single EC alone if it involves components that are essential part of the main industry such as the present case (POSCO) where “main industry is the steel plant but it involves major components of port, captive power plant, residential complex, water supply etc”.
It also suggested to the MoEF to undertake a study on “Strategic environmental assessment for establishment of number of ports all along the coastline of Odisha with due consideration to the issues related to biodiversity, risk associated etc.”
[Source – DNA]