NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal has refused to quash Environmental Clearance (EC) for modernisation of Navlakhi Port that involves mechanisation of the existing facilities and construction of the new jetty by Gujarat Maritime Board.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said whatever be the past violations, the impugned EC has been granted after due evaluation and following requisite procedure.
The green panel said the contention that the port was in existence since 1939, without any impact assessment and that the project proponent had earlier violated the environmental norms cannot be a ground to interfere with the impugned EC.
"Further contention that the proposal should have been evaluated as a violation case in accordance with the MoEF notification dated March 14, 2017, can also not be a ground for interfering with the impugned EC.
"It may be relevant where evaluation is required by MoEF instead of State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). We thus do not find any ground to interfere with the impugned EC," the bench said.
The tribunal, however, constituted a six-member committee to be headed by Justice B C Patel, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, to look into the need for safeguards to be adopted for the protection of the environment.
"The committee may inter-alia look into the environmental status of the area, damage to the environment caused or reasonably anticipated and remedial measures, the assimilative capacity of the area to take expansion/modernization as per available data, adequacy of capacity to handle operational accident management, availability of Health care facilities to meet any eventualities in the light of operations in the project and other incidental and allied issues.
"Other members of the Committee will be CPCB, GCZMA, SEIAA Gujarat, State PCB and District Coastal Aquaculture Authority (headed by District Magistrate). The State PCB will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. The Chairman, Gujarat State PCB, in consultation with Justice B.C. Patel, will determine and pay the honorarium to Justice Patel as Chairman of the Committee," the bench said.
The committee will be at liberty to take the assistance of any other Expert Institution or individual, the NGT said while permitting the Environment Ministry to make representation to the committee through the State PCB within two weeks.
"The Committee will be at liberty to interact with all stakeholders. The Committee may conduct proceedings online except site visit, if necessary. It may give its report as far as possible within three months to the Chief Secretary, Gujarat for ensuring compliance by the project proponent.
"The project proponent, subject to challenging such recommendations, will be bound to comply with the recommendations as to additional conditions of EC., which may be overseen by the concerned statutory authorities, following due process of law," the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Gujarat resident Roshni B Patel against the order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests dated November 20, 2020 granting Environmental Clearance (EC) for modernisation of Navlakhi Port by the Gujarat Maritime Board.
Navlakhi Port is situated on the southwest end of the Gulf of Kutch in Hansthal Creek, and is about 45 km from Morbi and 160 km from Kandla in Gujarat.
As per the records, the port has been in operation since 1939 with an existing capacity of 4 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) and the same is proposed to be increased to 20 MMTPA.