India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) has denied environmental clearance for two limestone quarries at Babarkat village in Zafarabad, Amreli. This decision caused a significant delay for Ultratech Cement Limited, which is part of the Aditya Birla Group.
The NGT Special Chamber ruled that the project falls under Category A and falls outside the jurisdiction of the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for granting environmental clearance (EC). The mentioned mines fall under cluster mining and the expansion of the existing mining project, which should have been reported by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
They consider the project an “A” category because the mining area is integral and covers more than 50 hectares. It is seen that a total area is a cluster and therefore, the impact of the whole activity as a whole needs to be studied in the consciousness of environmental impact assessment.
The decision came in response to two appeals, which argued that the EC had violated the grant law because the mines were more than 50 hectares wide. According to the appellant, at the time of applying for environmental clearance, the mines were divided into two sections to subvert Category-A classification. The two companies also have an existing mining lease for 565.93 hectares in the same area.
In its order, the court also relied on the investigation committee’s argument that the two mines were separated by an area of 600 meters, dividing the existing mine and 49.84 hectares at a boundary.
Hence, the NGT bench concluded that “the mining area in question is an integral part of the total mining area, which is more than 50 hectares” and hence, the “two mining leases together are of more than 50 hectares and cannot be treated as standalone for purposes of EIA (Environment Impact Assessment).”
The tribunal appointed an eight-member joint fact-finding committee, comprising three nominees of MoEFCC, a nominee of chairman SEIAA Gujarat, nominees of CPCB, GPCB, chief wildlife warden of Gujarat and Amreli district magistrate, to undertake a visit to the site and interact with stakeholders, and furnish a factual and action-taken report in the matter.