CHENNAI: The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday admitted a petition challenging the Environmental Clearance (EC) issued to Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited for its expansion inside Vedanthangal bird sanctuary and served a notice to the firm to respond by May 23.
The petition was filed by MR Thiyagarajan from Meenava Thanthai Nala Sangam. The prayer was to quash and set aside the EC granted by the Union environment ministry on March 31, 2022. The NGT bench, comprising judicial member Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member K Satyagopal, also issued notices to the Union environment ministry and State forest department.
The petitioner's counsel argued that, in May 2020, the company applied for EC to expand the production capacity of its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) manufacturing unit from 25.5 TPM to 134.082 TPM.
The company's application hid that the factory was located within Vedanthangal bird sanctuary. Sun Pharma claimed that the unit was 3.72 km from the boundary of the sanctuary, but it’s located 3.72 km from the Vedanthangal lake, the petitioner argued.
It should be noted that Tamil Nadu, on July 3, 1998, declared all places within 5-km radius of the Vedanthangal lake as a bird sanctuary. Moreover, Section 29 in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 prohibits any development inside the sanctuary until the State government, in consultation with the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), is satisfied that it is necessary for the improvement of wildlife. The company's application before NBWL seeking wildlife clearance is still pending.
In July 2020, the ministry wrote to the Chief Secretaries of all States detailing the procedures for consideration of development projects located within 10 km of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
"The letter clearly says that to get an EC, a clearance from the Standing Committee of NBWL is required," the petitioner argued.While the tribunal refused to grant any immediate relief, it recorded all the objections raised by the petitioner and posted the case to May 23.