The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has issued a show cause notice to the company UltraTech Cement for suspected violation of norms surrounding environmental clearance provided to it for limestone mining in Bhavnagar district. A farmers body, Khedut Ekta Manch, has demanded the withdrawal of the EC provided to the project as the mine is located within forest areas inhabited by lions and leopards.
“We have issued a notice to UltraTech Cement under Section 31A of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The company has been given 15 days time to file its response,” a GPCB official told The Indian Express on Friday. Under this section, GPCB can order closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry or operation of process.
The environmental clearance was given to UtraTech Cement in January 2017 for limestone mining in the villages of Talli and Bhambhor in Talaja taluka of Bhavnagar. The regional GPCB office in Bhavnagar carried out an inspection on October 21, 2019, and brought out a report which said that the company was found transporting limestone from the mine through the village road, which was in breach of the conditions of the environmental clearance. In its notice issued on Thursday, GPCB asked the UltraTech Cement to state reasons why production at the mine should not be stopped.
The mining in these two villages covers an area of 193 hectares. Sagar Rabari, the head of Khedut Ekta Manch, told mediapersons on Friday, “According to an RTI application filed by Bharat-sinh Vala, the area of the project is part of Greater Gir or Bruhad Gir declared by the Gujarat government notification of 2007 (as protected areas). There are three lions and 8-9 leopards living in the forest range of Talaja taluka. So the company had stated wrong facts to get Environmental Clearance.”
The farmers’ body also demanded that the state government should inform the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change and initiate steps for immediate cancellation of the EC. “A case must be registered against the company for illegally carrying out mining and (it must be) made to pay penalty,” Rabari added.