CONCLUDING THAT South West Port Limited (SWPL) committed “gross breach” of conditions, the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) Monday revoked the consent to operate awarded to the firm and suspended all coal operations at its berths in Mormugao port.
The GSPCB also pulled up the Mormugao Port Trust for importing coal through mooring dolphins without consent to operate and with no pollution control measures at sea. Port officials said coal imported through the mooring dolphins is used by Vedanta.
The JSW Group’s SWPL did not respond to requests from The Indian Express seeking comment on the GSPCB order. A Vedanta spokesperson said the company would respond after receiving an official copy of the order.
Last October, The Indian Express had revealed the findings of its ongoing investigation into the transport of coal by rail, road and water across Goa, which showed that it is being moved at the rate of 25 tonnes per minute, raising concerns over pollution levels.
It showed that the JSW Group has been exceeding its import capacity since 2012, getting 10.11 million tonnes in 2016-2017 alone, against an awarded consent of 5.48 million tonnes. On July 21, 2017, the GSPCB had written to SWPL, stating that it was reducing its permitted capacity by 25 per cent, to 4.125 million tonnes annually.
Ganesh Shetgaonkar, chairman, GSPCB, said authorities have been “asked to evacuate coal in the port premises, which have already been imported, in the next 15 days”. An official from the GSPCB has been deputed to oversee the evacuation, he said.
“They (SWPL) have violated the conditions of consent from the quantity point of view. They have exceeded the quantity, which is to be brought per annum. The port, too, was operating coal from the mooring dolphins without any consent,” said Shetgaonkar.
In its order, the GSPCB noted that the corporate failed to dispute the violation it committed against the “Consent to Operate”, and had exceeded the coal-handling capacity by 5.987 million tonnes per annum.
“… the Board in exercise of the power vested in it under section 31 (A) of the Air Act and under section 33(A) of the Water Act directs the management of Ms South West Port Limited to suspend the handling of Coking coal/Coke at Berth No 5A and 6A at Mormugao Port except to handle/ Transport the existing cargo at berth 5A and 6A within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order,” it said.
On the Port Trust, the GSPCB order stated: “…since MPT has itself submitted that they have no pollution control measures at the site, it was decided to direct MPT to first suspend operation of coal handling activity, at the mooring dolphin facility with immediate effect.”
On November 30, 2017, the GSPCB had sent a show cause notice to SWPL, asking it to respond by December 6 on why the Consent to Operate should not be terminated. The GSPCB also declared that a source appropriation study would be conducted by IIT-Bombay, with a research team scheduled to visit Goa in March.
In its response, SWPL challenged the GSPCB’s authority and jurisdiction, and claimed that its “operation has not caused any pollution”. “Any adverse order of revocation or suspension of the consent to operate would not only cause grave and irreparable loss, harm and injury to SWPL but would also have adverse repercussions on the steel industry causing a deficit of the steel in the market,” it said.
Shetgaonkar said that the GSPCB would issue further directions after the source appropriation study probes the source of pollution around the port premises.