National Green Tribunal quashes mining clearance to Jindal Steel

The National Green Tribunal has quashed the environmental clearance given to a Jindal group firm for mining coal in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh district, saying the public hearing for grant of the clearance was conducted in a “nauseating” manner.

The Tribunal’s bench of Justice C V Ramulu and R Nagendran quashed the clearance given to Jindal Steel and Power Ltd’s (JSPL) coal mining project, terming the hearing as “nauseating” as the people “appeared to have been brought” by the company to support them in the hearing.

Setting aside the May 18, 2009 clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to JSPL’s 4 MTPA (million tonne per annum) Gare Coal Mining Project and a pithead coal washery of same capacity, the bench said the MoEF will be at liberty to conduct a fresh public hearing “by taking all steps as required under the law”.

“The way in which the proceedings are conducted is nauseating and no reasonable person would accept that it was conducted fairly and much less properly,” the tribunal said, while adjudicating a plea by NGOs, Adivasi Majdoor Kisan Ekta Sangthan and Jan Chetna.

The bench watched the video recording of the public hearing held on January 5, 2008 by Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board.

It noted the details of persons opposing the project have not been recorded and after they left the public hearing site, the official kept sitting there and without any announcement resumed the hearing.

“This time only the supporters of the project were paraded one after another only to say one word ‘I Support’. The persons who supported the project all appeared to have been brought and prompted by the project proponent JSPL. It was a mockery of the entire process of public hearing,” the bench said.

“In the case on hand, after viewing the CD of the public hearing conducted on January 5, 2008, we are surprised to note to our dismay that the same was a farce. It was a mockery of the public hearing and the procedure required to be followed thereof. All the norms required in conducting a smooth and fair procedure was given a go by,” the bench said. (more)

The Tribunal also pulled up the MoEF for going ahead and granting the clearance “ignoring” the lapses in public hearing and “brushing aside” the Environment Appraisal Committee’s suggestion to conduct it afresh.

“The MoEF simply ignored the mandatory procedure under clauses of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 and granted the environmental clearance to JSPL.

“Therefore, the EAC recommendation and the grant of environmental clearance is liable to be set aside,” it said.

“The public hearing may be directed to be conducted by an experienced additional district magistrate (ADM), other than the one who conducted the public hearing on January 5, 2008 and special care may be directed to be taken while recording the statements of the people participates,” it said.

The bench said this is not a case where there were a few ignorable procedural lapses in conducting the public hearing but “a case of a mockery of public hearing, which is one of the essential parts of the decision making process in grant of the environmental clearance”.

The bench noted that even before the public hearing could start, the affected people had raised slogans to stop the public hearing and only on intervention of Additional District Magistrate (ADM) a few persons gave their statements.

It noted that as the situation worsened, there was stone-pelting resulting in intervention by police and use of force after which participants left the place.

[Source – Outlookindia]

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