The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on Wednesday granted environment and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance for the 8,481 hectares of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Kutch district to the Gautam Adani promoted Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) while directing it to restore the creeks in Mundra to the condition that they were in 2005.
This clearance comes as a huge relief to APSEZ which has been fighting a long string of court battles for developing a multi-product SEZ on 18,000 hectares at Mundra.
“The grant of environmental clearance to Mundra SEZ by MoEF will encourage investment in SEZ and the development is expected to be at a much faster pace as it provides seamless connectivity through sea, rail and road,” said Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group in a statement.
The MoEF order said , “…Ministry hereby accords necessary Environment Clearance for proposed multi-product SEZ in an area of 6641.27 hectares and CRZ clearance for desalination, seawater intake, outfall facility and pipeline for as per the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification- 2006 and its subsequent amendments and Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011, subject to strict compliance of the terms and conditions”.
“Bring the creeks to the condition as was seen in the satellite map of 2005, which will be a “reference” satellite map and a copy of which shall be sent to you separately,” stated the MoEF order laying down “specific conditions” while granting the clearances.
APSEZ has also been asked to submit the latest satellite map once a year “which can be compared with the reference satellite map of 2005 to ensure that no modification in the creeks, rivers, mangroves and mouth of creeks have taken place.”
The Adani Group has also been prevented from carrying out “any river course modification”. It has also been asked to conserve the creeks, river and mangroves in the area and to also “ensure that the mouth of all the creeks are kept open to ensure flushing of the creeks.
“Till the approval of action plan for conservation and protection of creeks/mangrove area, the CRZ area within the SEZ shall be demarcated as ‘No Development Zone’,” stated the order preventing APSEZ from undertaking any development activities.
Officials from the regional office of MoEF, Bhopal will be monitoring the implementation of the environmental safeguards.
“The SEZ will host industries which will generate additional cargo volumes for the Mundra Port,” APSEZ said in a statement. Over 20 industrial units have already set up base within this SEZ, official sources said.
APSEZ’s project has been facing a number of litigations that claimed that the company was violating environmental norms and destructing natural resources.
The Gujarat High Court in January held that APSEZ did not have a valid environmental clearance and ordered the industrial units in the SEZ to shutdown operations. The units approached the Supreme Court which granted them interim relief and allowed them to continue operations, but restricted them from further expansion and construction.