Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Major win for Gujarat farmers; construction of cement plant cancelled.

Published: Tuesday, Dec 6, 2011, 15:55 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA 
The farmers of Gujarathave won a major battle against the might of industry. The Union ministry of environment and forest is learnt to have permanently cancelled the environment permission granted to Nirma Ltd to construct a cement plant on a waterbody in Mahuva taluka of Bhavnagar.
This means the detergent giant would have to conclusively cancel its plans to construct a cement factory in fertile Mahuva belt. The farmers had approached the court and after several high-profile protests, the MoEF had appointed a committee to revise its decision. Two committee reports supported the farmers' claim, based on which the MoEF has now finally withdrawn the permission. The final hearing of the matter in Supreme Court is expected later this week where the MoEF is expected to announce this.
Though supported by the state government, the farmers of the region had protested the cement plant on the grounds that the environment clearance had been procured by faulty representation to the MoEF that that said land was a wasteland, while it was a waterbody, which accumulated water and supplied for farming in the surrounding villages.
Sources in the environment ministry in Delhi confirmed to DNA that the clearance has been withdrawn and the news is likely to be made public soon. DNA was the first paper to report on the struggle by Mahuva farmers against Nirma's cement plant and supported the movement over the past two years.
Ruling BJP MLA Kanubhai Kalsariya, who had championed the cause of Mahuva farmers in this connection, much to the chagrin of party leaders in the state, said, "After the expert committee report pointed out that the plant was not viable for the ecological balance of the area, we were hopeful of the ministry withdrawing the environment clearance given to the company."
The MoEF decision has come in the wake of opinion expressed by the Balu Committee, a seven member expert committee consisting of top scientists of the country.Kalsariya had earlier filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat high court order that gave a green signal to the plant subject to certain conditions.
The Balu committee, which was formed after the intervention of the Supreme Court, had reportedly concluded that the land allocated to Nirma for the cement plant was actually a water body and not a waste land.
Earlier, the Vaishnai committee formed by the MoEF for the same had also arrived at the same conclusion. Sourced close to the development said that the MoEF is likely to file an affidavit before the Supreme Court informing it about its decision. At present an appeal regarding the same is pending before the apex court.
The Gujarat government had allotted 268 hectare of land to Nirma for its cement plant in Mahuva. The farmers of the region under the banner Shree Mahuva Bandhara Khetiwadi Pariyavaran Bachav Samittee filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Gujarat high court in 2009 through advocate Anand Yagnik. After a long legal battle, a two judge bench of the high court had given the green signal to the plant on the condition that the consumer giant surrenders some 100 hectare of land which formed the water body.

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