Shimla: In a major setback to French cement giant Lafarge, the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has revoked environment clearance granted by the central government to its greenfield project proposed to come up in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district.
The NEAA judgment came after a one-man team, comprising NEAA chairman JC Kala visited the place where Lafarge’ plant is coming up and heard grievances of the local people against the company on June 23 this year. The environment clearance to the project was challenged by two separate petitioners, Pratapsingh Thakur and Ganga Singh Thakur on behalf of Jai Shri Deo Badeyogi Sangharsh Evam Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samiti, on the grounds that the negative socio-economic and environmental impacts of the project have been completely overlooked by the Environment Impact Assessment Report submitted by the company.
Environmentalists Manshi Asher and Prakash Bhandari, told reporters on Monday that NEAA judgment observed that “the dispossession, impoverishment and trauma attached to displacement have neither been captured by the environment impact assessment nor appreciated by the expert appraisal committee or the state government”.
The NEAA judgment also noted that environment and forests ministry while granting environment clearance on June 8, 2009, ignored the fact that the project would affect wildlife of the Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary that is located less than five km from the project site.
“The authority is convinced that due to environmental and social considerations, it’s neither desirable to mine Telehan village nor put up cement plant at Ghanger. Both the environment impact assessment and the ministry have not correctly assessed the impact of the project on land, water and air and failed to appreciate its effects on the livelihood of the people of the area,” said NEEA.
“While the ministry of environment and forest’s ‘Expert Advisory Committee’ before recommending clearance to the Rs-900 crore project did make a site visit in May 2009 after objections raised by us affected communities, the committee did not visit the actual mining site nor did it meet any of the affected persons and granted the clearance in June 2009,” said Pratapsingh Thakur.
The NEAA is the only judicial body in the country allowed to hear grievances against environmental clearances given to projects by the environment and forests ministry. A spokesperson for Lafarge said here that the company was not violating environment norms and disturbing ecological balance in the area. “A detailed impact study with respect to air, water, soil, noise and socio-economic components was undertaken within 10 km radius of the proposed project site and necessary safeguards provided,” the spokesperson said.
He said manufacturing at the site would be undertaken through a dry process technology using minimal water and based on zero-discharge concept. Any surplus waste water would be treated and solid waste from treatment plant would be disposed off in an environmentally sound manner.
Lafarge India Pvt Ltd had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Himachal Pradesh government to set up a cement manufacturing facility in Karsog and undertake mining of three million tonnes of limestone. Lafarge has been present in India, the world’s second largest cement
market, since 1999.