Green Tribunal directs proceedings against OPG

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has directed Gujarat government to take action against OPG Power Gujarat Pvt Ltd for violating the conditions on which the environmental clearance was granted to it for its 300 MW Bhadreshwar thermal power plant at Mundra.

The Tribunal held that OPG had started construction work at the project site before Forest Clearance was accorded to it on April 26 which was in violation of the conditions laid down in the environment clearance granted to it on June 11, 2010. The June 11, 2010 clearance for the 2×150 MW thermal power plant at village Bhadreshwar, Mundra, District Kutch, Gujarat had stipulated that OPG shall not start work without "all requisite prior permissions".

"The forest clearance was admittedly granted to the OPG only on April 26, 2012. Thus, any construction made before the said date would be hit by the terms of environment clearance," a bench headed by Tribunal`s Acting Chairperson Justice A S Naidu said. OPG counsel Kamal Budhiraja, however, said "the order has not held the company to be in violation of environment clearance." He said the Tribunal has merely directed the Gujarat state authorities to ascertain whether allegations made against the company are factually correct.

In the order, the Tribunal directed the state government and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) to initiate proceedings against OPG for the violation within a period of four months. "In view of the discussions made above, we direct State Government/ SEIAA, Gujarat to initiate necessary proceedings against the Project Proponent (OPG), issue show cause to them and on perusal of the cause shown," the bench said.

The tribunal said "If (SEIAA is) satisfied that the project proponent has violated the terms and conditions of the environment clearance or had committed any other omission or commission and/or encroached upon Khari river unauthorisedly, take such action as deemed just proper and in accordance with the law". It also said the proceedings would not be prejudiced by any observations made by it in the order as they are only prima facie.

On a plea by a project-hit Gujarat native, the Tribunal had earlier ordered the SEIAA to visit the project site and file a report on alleged violation of conditions on which environmental clearance was accorded to OPG. Referring to the report submitted by the SEIAA, the bench said it appeared that construction work was in progress till a day before the visit of the committee and it was stopped on April 9, 2012.

"The report further indicates that RCC foundation work for boilers and turbines was in progress. It is alleged that a part of river Khari which belongs to the community, has been illegally occupied and enclosed within the boundary of the project land," the bench said in its judgement. Earlier, On February 8, the Tribunal had held that the company could not proceed with the project in violation of the condition of the environment clearance.

However, the petitioner, Husain Saleh Mahmad Usman Bhai Kara, filed another plea alleging that the company has been continuing with the project work violating the orders of the Tribunal. The Tribunal had then asked the SEIAA to conduct a site inspection and submit a report. The authority in its report submitted that the company had begun the construction work. The company had later informed the Tribunal that it was accorded forest clearance on April 26. It had said with the grant of the clearance it could continue with the project work now.