The National Green Tribunal on Thursday dismissed a petition that sought a stay on construction of the Statue of Unity at river island Sadhu Bet near Narmada Dam, claiming there was no green nod for the project.
The Pune-based western zone bench of the tribunal dismissed the petition, filed by environmental activists in Vadodara, on the ground of “limitation”, leaving it open for the petitioners to approach another competent court. The bench of Justice Vikas R Kingaonkar and expert member Ajay Deshpande said the petitioners approached it in March 2015, six months after the Gujarat government handed over the work order to L&T.
According to Rohit Prajapati, one of the petitioners in the case, “The tribunal said that although the case has merit, we should have approached the tribunal within six months after the foundation stone for the project was laid in October 2013. Our argument was that the clarity on the project was available only once the work order was given out, for us to ascertain environmental violations. We urged the tribunal to not set a precedent for environmental violations in such projects. The tribunal has left open the option for us to appeal in other competent courts and we will do so in due course.”
The construction of the 180-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the island in the middle of Narmada river started in November 2014.
The petitioners had apprehended that the project would have a long-term effect on the Narmada basin and it would burden the tectonic faultline in the river. They claimed that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), a special-purpose vehicle established by the Gujarat government, had not taken any environmental clearance.
SVPRET, however, maintained that the project needs no green nod as the “statue” will be spread over only 12,000 square feet and environmental nod is required for a project of over 20,000 sq feet. “As per the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, there’s a time limitation of six months, including the grace period from the day the action of such dispute first arose. Although my clients had issued notices to Gujarat Government, the Pollution Control Board, the Environment Department, we approached as early as November 2013, we filed the case with NGT only in January 2015. Without going into the merit of our argument, the bench dismissed the application observing that it was not filed within the period of six months even though the petitions — as displayed by the notices served in November 2013 — were well aware of the action which, according to them, violates the law,” said Asim Sarode, advocate of the petitioners. He said that the clients will study the verdict and will then decide if they would opt to go for an appeal.