Shimla (Aug 12): Himachal Pradesh High Court today set aside environmental clearance granted by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to Lafarge India Pvt Ltd for setting up a cement project near Karsog in district Mandi.
A division bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol also remanded the matter back to the EAC with directions that it would direct the sub-committee to visit the site and submit its report and the EAC after considering the report should decide the matter afresh.
M/s Lafarge India Pvt. Ltd. had been granted environmental clearance on the report of the sub-committee constituted by the EAC to visit the spot. Some of the local residents of the area challenged this clearance by filing appeals before the National Environment Appellate Authority.
The sole member of the appellate authority set aside the recommendations of the EAC on the ground that the sub-committee constituted by the EAC had only visited the plant site and did not visit the mining site.
The Company approached the high court against the orders of the appellate authority stating that a single member could not sit over the report of the expert committee. The company said that the EAC, by accepting the report of the sub-committee, condoned any lapse on behalf of the sub-committee and that the member was swayed more by
public sentiments than by legal provisions.
The court observed that while accepting the report of the sub-committee, the EAC did not consider as to what was the impact of the members of the sub-committee not visiting the mining area. The mining site is much larger than the plant site and mining will have a huge impact on the environment. It was for the sub-committee to decide what this impact was but the effect of the mining could not have been
decided without visiting the mining site at all.
The Court also directed the EAC to give its findings within two months. The high court also directed the sub-committee to ensure that sufficient notice is given to the people of the area before visiting the site so that they can appear before the members of the sub-committee and put forth their views.
The Court also suggested to videograph the site visit by the sub-committee and its interaction with the people. The court refused to go into the point of sustainable development and other arguments stating that the EAC is an expert body to go into these aspects of the matter.