CHENNAI: In a significant move, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to revise the guidelines for setting up thermal power projects in the country within three months “to avoid future controversies.”
The direction was part of its order issued on Wednesday striking down the Environment Clearance awarded to the 2,640 MW coal-fired plant of Nagarjuna Construction Company, coming up at Sompeta in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.
A bench comprising Justice A S Naidu and G K Pandey (expert member), observed that the guidelines relating to thermal power plants, relied upon by the MoEF in this instant case, were not exhaustive nor had taken care of many factors affecting environment.
“The changed scenario, scientific developments and change in technology mandate that the siting criteria as well as guidelines for setting up Thermal Power Stations (TPPs) should be revised to bring it on a par with the modern techniques to suit the present environmental condition and to protect the ecologically sensitive areas,” the order said, adding that the MoEF was still guided by the siting criteria formulated way back in 1987.
The tribunal observed that while an exercise to revise the guidelines was initiated in 2009, the MoEF had not arrived at any conclusion. Precautionary principles mandate that the guidelines should clearly spell out “Go” and “No Go” areas for locating TPPs, so that the environmental issues could be internalised from project formation stage.
“We, therefore, direct the MoEF to frame new guidelines and siting criteria with observations made in this paragraph for TPPs and file a copy thereof before this Tribunal within three months hence,” the direction said.