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Ministry of Environment and Forests appealed to dismiss the application challenging EC

Posted on 11 Sep 2014

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in its fresh counter affidavit before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday said that Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) in Kerala was cleared after following all due procedure required under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification and the Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) , 2011.

It appealed to the NGT to dismiss the application challenging environmental clearance and CRZ clearance granted to the project on stranger grounds. The MOEF affidavit said this petition challenging both clearances should be dismissed as it is not supported by a valid supporting affidavit of the applicant. The applicants say they were barely literate in English and ignorant of the internet and cannot read the Environmental Clearance (EC) from the internet. In the original application, the signatures appended on the affidavit are in Malayalam, meaning thereby that the applicants are not literate in English at all. Despite this, the supporting affidavit nowhere states that the contents of the original application have been read over to them in “Vernacular (Malayalam)”.

The MoEF said in view of this it is submitted that the original application is not supported by a valid supporting affidavit of the applicants, this is liable to be dismissed.

The affidavit justified clearance for the project and said the VISL proposal was considered in the 95th Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) meeting held on January 18 to 20, 2011 and in response to comments from the EAC, VlSL submitted various reports including technical feasibility and project plans. The EAC after deliberation agreed on the Vizhinjam site and finalized the additional site specific terms of reference for further study. The draft EIA report was published and a public hearing was conducted on June 29, 2013 at the project site.

There were objections raised in the representations including lack of data on presence of endangered species, the site is located in CRZ 1 area, difficulties for fishermen in crossing the channel, impacts of dredging and other aspects.

The project was recommended for clearance by the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority on august 24, 2013. The MoEF said event though the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of Kerala, areas of outstanding natural beauty were classified as CRZ 1, it may not be considered as CRZ 1 since it is not under the purview of the CRZ 2011 notification because, the CZMP has to be read in consonance with the CRZ notification 2011 and not the earlier 1991 one.

The affidavit said that CZMPs are prepared by every state under the CRZ notification and that in case of any conflict between the two, it is the CRZ notification 2011 which will be considered and relied upon over the state CZMP. The MoEF granted Environmental Clearance and CRZ clearance on January 3, 2014 stipulating various environmental safeguards.

On July 17, the NGT principal bench passed an order in New Delhi transferring the Vizhinjam port case from Chennai to review the constitutionality of the 2011 notification of the MoEF exempting the Vizhinjam coastal area from the CRZ 1 category. The NGT said Vizhinjam is not the only place that requires protection and that it will expand its review to 6000 km of the country’s coast.

Source: The hindu