New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that Nirma Industries' cement plant in Gujarat's Bhavnagar district has to relocate because it falls in the eco-sensitive wetlands. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said it will consider on Friday the expert committee's report which said it was not a wasteland, as claimed by the Gujarat Government while giving nod for the plant in 268 hectare.

The bench sought response from Nirma whether it would like to challenge -- in the apex court or before the newly constituted Green Tribunal -- the findings of the committee,
which also said that the plant was preventing the salinity from sea water in the coastal area.

The report was placed before the court by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), which also filed an affidavit supporting the findings of the expert committee.

The Committee, which was headed by C R Babu, professor emeritus and former Pro-Vice Chancellor of University of Delhi, has recommended relocation of the plant saying it would
"bring changes in the ecology of the water body".

It said that any location of such heavy polluting cement factory, based on coal thermal power plant and coke oven plant, would generate emissions and effluents that would
damage the ecology and lead to reduction of crops in the area.

"The location of the industrial complex would adversely impact the ecosystem services. The lime stone mining in 3,460 hectares, the bulk of which is a crop area, will lead to creation of dumps, which may result in reduction in the catchment area and possible salinity  ingression," the report said. It added that area is agriculturally very important as it produces 6 per cent of total onions in India.

The committee further said that the nearby Mahuva Taluka harbours Asiatic lions and have been spotted in and around the water-body area.

"In fact, there is a reserve forest within 10 km radius of the site. Two critically endangered vulture species and many other globally threatened bird species are seen around Bandhara," said the report, which was accepted by the MoEF.

In conclusion, the report said, "The committee unanimously recommends that the site of the cement plant industrial complex of Nirma be relocated elsewhere outside Samadhiala Bandhara". The court was hearing Nirma's petition, challenging the stop-work notice issued by MoEF, after environmentalists raised concerns.

Earlier, the Apex Court had ordered a fresh environmental study of the area where chemicals maker Nirma is setting up the cement plant.

The bench had directed the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF to study whether the plant was in the wetland area or water bodies.

The apex court had directed the committee to call reports from a body of experts with five scientists, who should visit the site.

The court asked the expert body to give hearing to all parties, including Nirma, and the residents near the site and ascertain its impact on environment degradation.

Nirma, before approaching the apex court, had moved the Gujarat High Court but it could not get any relief.

The government had given environment clearances to Nirma, which was allotted 268 hectare for setting up the cement plant and over 3,000 hectare for mining in the surrounding area across the coastline in Bhavnagar district.

 

(Agencies)