January 20, 2021 9:43:37 pm
The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has issued a show-cause notice to the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL), a company promoted by the state government, after it was found operating a lignite mining site in Bhavnagar district allegedly in violation of various environmental rules, regulations and statutory provisions.
In its notice, the GPCB had asked why the GPCL should not be prosecuted for offences under the Water Act, Air Act and Environment Protection Act. While the power corporation has recently submitted a response in the matter, the GPCB is expected to take further action after verifying the same.
The lignite mining site of GPCL is located in Ghogha tehsil of Bhavnagar district. The area near the site has witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon of rise in the ground level for the past few months. Expressing concern, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), an environmental group, had written to the state authorities, including the GPCB, about alleged “illegal and improper” mining activities at the site and demanded that it be stopped till necessary studies were undertaken.
With reference to the PSS’ complaint, the GPCB had visited the mining site and had noted a number of violations. Following the visit, the GPCB issued a legal notice to GPCL on December 31 last year while referring to various violations.
As per the legal notice, a copy of which is available with The Indian Express, the mining unit does not have an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) and Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP). It had also installed coal crushing machinery without obtaining a permission from the GPCB. At the time of the GPCB’s visit, coal crushing operation was on without any provision of air pollution control measure. The notice also pointed out a number of other violations at the mining site.
The GPCB legal notice, addressed to GPCL and its manager (mines) Devendra Khot, stated: “Under the circumstances, you are hereby called upon to show cause, within a period of 15 days from the receipt of this notice, as to how have you not committed the breach of provisions of environmental law and as to why you should not be prosecuted for offences committed by you, under Water Act, Air Act and Environment (P) Act, 1986.”
When contacted, Khot said, “We have submitted our reply. Work on STP and ETP has begun and it will be completed in four months.” Asked if why the company did not have STP or ETP so far, Khot said, “There were many issues involved and it took time to clear it. We have given our valid reasons (for the same in the reply).”
Unit head of GPCB for Bhavnagar, Manoj Patel confirmed that the GPCL authorities have replied to the notice. “In the reply, they have put short-term action plan and long-term action plan. Now, I will get it verified from my regional office. And further decision will be taken subsequently,” Patel said.
Meanwhile, PSS has demanded that mining activities be immediately stopped and cited a 2017 Supreme Court order that mandates all industrial units, which require ‘consent to operate’, to be allowed to continue activity only when a functional effluent treatment plant is in place.
In a recent letter to various state and central authorities, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant from PSS have demanded that GPCB must issue a closure notice to GPCL while immediately stopping the mining activity at the site. Referring to the rise of land level around the mining site, and calling it an “unfolding disaster”, they have alleged that it has caused irreversible damage to the groundwater, farmlands, air, agriculture and health of the villagers and other living beings in the surrounding areas.
They claimed that 16 samples of groundwater, collected from seven villages near the mining site, have shown high TDS (total dissolved solids), magnesium and chloride quantities and low pH (indicative of higher acidity), making it unfit not only for consumption of human beings and animals, but also for irrigation.
GPCL was given consent and authorisation for mining at the site by the GPCB in May 2018 under the provisions of the Water Act, Air Act and the Hazardous & Other Waste Rules, 2016. The consent and authorisation was till December 2022.
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