Even as the Maharashtra government has applied to get environmental clearance (EC) for its Statue of Shivaji (SoS) project, the Gujarat government has defended its stand of not applying for the same for its Statue of Unity (SoU) project that is coming up on an islet near Kevadia in Narmada district.
The Gujarat government has defended its decision before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the grounds that the Shivaji project coming up in the Arabian sea near Mumbai cannot be compared with the Statue of Unity project.
The Shivaji statue project is proposed to be 190-metre tall. The SoU project, however, is planned to be of 182-metre height and work on it has already started. The superintending engineer of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), Rajendra Kanungo, submitted an affidavit in May, opposing the petition before the Pune bench of NGT.
On comparison between the two projects, the officer stated in the affidavit, “As far as the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the SoS project coming up in Mumbai is concerned, I say that both the projects are completely different and cannot be compared with each other. The geographical location of the project surrounding ecology, flora, fauna, and all other environmental parameters are absolutely different from each other.” A group of environmental activists from central Gujarat have challenged the SoU project before NGT on the ground that Gujarat Government has not got EC for the project from the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
The work order for the SoU project, worth Rs 2,979 crore, has already been awarded to Larsen & Toubro and the company has already begun work on the project. The petitioners have challenged the project on a number of grounds and to buttress their arguments they have cited the SoS project of Maharashtra Government for which the latter has already applied for EC from MoEF. The ToR for the EC of SoS project have already been issued by MoEF.
Maharashtra government has submitted the details of SoS project to the MoEF which issued it ToR on February 5, 2015, asking the government to examine every aspect of environment impact and safety measures for environmental impact assessment report. As per the ToR, the project implementing agency will have to study infrastructure facilities at the seashore, their development and related impacts. It has been asked to “examine the carrying capacity vis-a-vis safe limit of number of people to be permitted on the island at a time, keeping in view emergency evacuation in unforeseen situation like terrorist operation, cyclone and other natural phenomenon.”
The ToR also suggests the government to seek advice from Bombay Natural History Society on impact the project might have on birds and marine life. It requires to examine details of stone requirement, land use according to master plan and land use till around 10 kilometer radius of the project site. The ToR also asks the government to prepare environmental monitoring and management plans for the project and submit details of Risk Assessment and Disaster Management Plan after getting clearance from the Mumbai Port Trust and the Indian Navy.
The petitioners have annexed a copy of the ToR for SoS project’s EC before the NGT. They have claimed that like SoS, SoU project is also coming up in environmentally sensitive area and so EC is must for the same. They have added that while the SoU project is coming up on a water body near a huge dam that falls in earthquake-prone zone, it is also near Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
While not seeking EC for SoU project, SSNNL — the project implementing agency of the Guajrat government — has maintained that since the total built-up area of the first phase of the project will be 19,731 square metre, it does not require prior environmental clearance as per the EIA Notification, 2006, which states that only building and construction project with a built-up area more than 20,000 square metre will require such clearance.
SSNNL stated that it had consulted state-level Environmental Clearance Assessment Authority in 2010 which stated that no environ mental clearance was required. The case is due to be heard in the NGT on Wednesday.
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