The proposed Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project in Kancheepuram, which is awaiting clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has run into rough weather again with residents of Panaiyur Periakuppam challenging before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the permission given to the project proponents to establish a captive coal jetty and conveyor belt for the plant in their fishing hamlet.
In their petition before the Southern Bench comprising Judicial Member Justice P Jyothimani and Expert Member Professor R Nagendran, Marimuthu and Mathikarasu, the residents said that in November last year, the MoEF had granted CRZ and environment clearances for the coal jetty despite a number of anomalies in the project and the public consultation process that preceded the sanction.
Express had reported in January the resolution adopted in the village panchayat to oppose the coal jetty as the fisher folk feared it would destroy their only means of livelihood.
According to the petitioners, while the 4000 MW thermal power project is proposed to be set up in Cheyyur, the coal jetty and the conveyor belt to transport the coal is to be built in Panaiyur, which is several kilometres off Cheyyur.
While the coal jetty is an integral part of the power plant, the proponents have conducted separate Environment Impact Assessments as the the two were different projects. Therefore, the cumulative effect of the projects on the sensitive marine ecology of the area is unknown and the impact of the coal jetty project itself is understated.
To put the seriousness into perspective, counsel for the petitioner, D Nagasaila, pointed out that the plant would need as much as 14 million metric tonnes of coal per year. This would translate to a minimum of 38,400 metric tonnes per day, which is set to be conveyed through the captive coal jetty in Panaiyur.
Further, the assessments have not taken into considerations the impact of desalination plants to be established for this purpose.
Also, the counsel said serious issues were raised with regard to the public hearing that was conducted for the project. It was earlier challenged before the NGT and the tribunal had directed the MoEF to hear the representation of the residents before deciding on the project. However, this order was brazenly violated with impunity with the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF giving a green signal to the coal jetty without hearing to the side of the fishermen.
Therefore, the petition sought quashing of the clearance given to the project.Admitting the petition, the bench ordered notices to the respondents including the MoEF.