Months after Chromeni Steels Private Limited, a joint venture of a Chinese steel manufacturer and four industry groups of India, commissioned its stainless steel plant in Mundra taluka of Kutch district, the National Green Tribunal has asked the company to stop its activities at the plant as it has not obtained environment clearance (EC).
Passing an interim order on a plea moved by Gajubha alias Gajendrasinh Jadeja of Kutch, the Delhi bench of the NGT directed Chromemi Steels to halt operations at its plant until the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) made its stance clear over the requirement of EC for the plant.
“Considering the fact that EC is necessary — which was also our prima facie view held earlier — we direct the respondent industry to stop its activities until clarification is received from the MoEF&CC,” the bench of Justices SP Wangdi, K Ramakrishnan and expert member Nagin Nanda stated in its order passed on November 21.
The order from the NGT comes after Jadeja, sarpanch of Navinal village in Mundra taluka of Kutch district filed a petition with the Pune bench of NGT in July this year, complaining that Chromeni Steels plant at Kundrodi village in Mundra taluka of Kutch had started producing stainless steel without taking due clearances. Jadeja complained that the company had not obtained environment clearance from the MoEF&CC to set up the plant for manufacturing cold rolled (CR) coils of stainless steel at Kundrodi nor had it got an environment impact assessment (EIA) done to obtain the EC.
EIA process involves public consultation with project affected people but Jadeja said that Chromeni Steels did not conduct any EIA or obtain EC before the company started construction of the plant in January last year. Chromeni Steels is a joint venture of Tsigshan Industries, a stainless steel manufacturer from China and three Indian business groups – Sunrise Group, Suncity Group, JP ISCON Group and VD Group.
While Sunrise and Suncity groups are into manufacturing of stainless steel, Ahmedabad-based JP ISCON Group is into real-estate development. VD Group is into diamond business.
The Sunrise Group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in Gandhinagar in January, 2017. As part of the MoU, the Chinese company promised to invest Rs 6,000 crore to set up CR and hot rolled (HR) stainless steel plant in Mundra.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani laid the foundation stone of the plant in January 2018. According to the information on the company website, the plant started production in May this year and the company has a target of installing capacity for producing one million tonnes of CR coils by December this year.
The NGT served notices to Chromeni Steels, MoEF&CC and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board. The court also formed a committee in August this year comprising State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of Gujarat, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), district collector Kutch and the regional director of Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).
The tribunal also directed the committee to verify the facts in the petition moved by Jadeja in which he claimed the company had not obtained EC despite it being a polluting industry and that it was drawing groundwater without formal authorisation from CGWA. In its report submitted on October 15, the committee concluded that only the MoEF&CC was authorised to grant EC.
During the hearing on October 15, Jadeja’s lawyer Rahul Chaudhary submitted a copy of a letter written by MoEF&CC to the chairman of SEIAA, Chhattisgarh.
In the letter, the Ministry underlined that as per EIA Notification 2006, secondary metallurgical industry projects involving operation of furnaces with capacity of more than 30,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) are to be appraised for EC. The applicant pointed out that Chomeni Steels plant has capacity to produce more than 30,000 MT steel per annum.
The court said it would apply to the plant in Mundra also and posted the matter to November 21.
On November 21, the advocate of MoEF&CC sought more time to file an affidavit. The court granted the plea but issued an interim order to stop activities at the Kundrodi plant. The next date of hearing is January 14.
On Tuesday, Jadeja claimed that the plant was operational till Monday. “The company has started production without obtaining consent from GPCB. This is also a violation of norms,” Jadeja, who is also president of Mundra taluka unit of Congress, said.
Officials of Chromeni Steels could not be reached for a comment. An e-mail sent to the company did not elicit a response till the time of going to the press.