The National Green Tribunal has stayed work at the 3x800 mega watt super thermal power project at Kudgi.
In a recent judgment, it ordered the National Thermal Power Corporation, which is setting up the project, to halt all activities at the site and also stayed the project’s environmental clearances.
The order, passed by a five-member bench chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar on March 13, severely criticised the NTPC for giving false information on the land to be acquired for environmental clearance. NTPC had told the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that the land was barren and rocky with only one crop being grown there.
However, petitioner M P Patil presented evidence to show that the land was under cultivation and that there were around 40 borewells to irrigate crops in the area. The MoEF has a policy of denying clearances to projects if the land is under cultivation.
The NGT has asked the MoEF to re-evaluate the clearances granted to NTPC. It also asked the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to re-consider specific issues like rehabilitation and reconstruction, effects of improper disclosure with regard to categorisation of land, provision of ambient air quality monitoring stations and setting up of an early warning system near human settlements.
In its observations, the NGT said that in any public hearing for the environmental clearance of a project, the onus was not on the objectors to prove their objections. Video recording of objections raised and responses given is also mandatory, the bench said.
The bench asked the EAC to consider recommending fines on NTPC for causing environmental degradation and giving incorrect information in its application for clearance. It also sought additional conditions if it was felt that the project could be given the green light again. The time-frame granted to the EAC is six months.
Speaking to Express, Mallanagouda Patil, a scientist who was part of the group that approached the NGT, said the arguments presented against NTPC were scientific. He said he had tried to show that the dust emitted by the plant was dangerous to people, crops and environment.
NTPC has decided to appeal against the order and has approached the Supreme Court where the matter has been scheduled for hearing on March 25. The Kudgi project will generate 2,400-MW in the first phase. Around 120 officials of the NTPC and thousands of others work at the site.