In a major victory following the prolonged struggle of the locals and activists in and around the area Yellur in Udupi, Karnataka, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered suspension of the environmental clearance given to the Adani Udupi Power Corporation on Thursdays.
The clearance that was given in August 2017 to expand the plant by addition of 2x800 MW by 2020 has been suspended on the grounds of environmental pollution. The Tribunal has also invoked the ‘polluter pays’ principle under Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, and has asked Udupi Power Corporation Ltd (UPCL) to pay environmental compensation which shall be assessed by a committee of experts. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall be the nodal agency to coordinate among the members.
Meanwhile, until the submission of the report, the Tribunal has directed UPCL to pay an interim environmental compensation of Rs 5 crore to the CPCB within a month.
A press note released by the Janjagrithi Samithi, “A committee comprising of a senior scientist of CPCB, a senior representative from IIT Chennai, and a senior scientist from IIT-Bangalore has been constituted by it. The committee has been asked to assess the environmental damage on account of the environmental violations and submit its report within three months.”
Also read: Jharkhand Activists Urge Governor to Immediately Stop Adani Power Plant
Speaking to Newsclick, Vidya Dinker, an activist working on the case said, “The order has taken far too long, however, it is a victory of the stand we have been taking. We now demand that the state of Karnataka shuts down the facility and focuses on the restoration. We are also asserting that our long standing demand of the Environmental Carrying Capacity study of the twin districts of Udupi and Dakshin Kannada must now be undertaken.”
The project has caused irreversible environmental damage in the region; the residents of the area have been complaining for years about the ill-effects on public health and decreasing agricultural yield due to the UPCL. The tribunal has observed that the “mismanagement of the environment was evident from the contamination of the water (surface and ground), soil and air apart from the impaired functional aspects of the biotic elements”.
“This was deduced from the reduced productivity of grains, jasmine flower and horticultural produce, reproductive ability of livestock, poultry animals, etc. There was dust on the leaves during the dry seasons which induced phytotoxicity leading to poor pollination and hence reduced productivity. There was reduction in the population of pollinators. Stunted growth of saplings and enhanced respiratory diseases, etc were noticed caused by release of saline mist from the cooling towers of the plant which is locally dispersed by the wind even up to 2 km,” the release stated.
The NGT has also noted that the extension of the environmental clearance granted in April 2002 of the current plant itself was illegal and done under ‘questionable circumstances at the request of the project proponent’.
The Triubal now is likely to issue directions for the removal of the plant to ensure the restoration of the environment in the area. The Adanis, however, are likely to challenge the judgement of the NGT in the Supreme Court.
Also read: Jharkhand: ‘Forceful’ Land Acquisition, ‘Govt Brutalities’ Define Adani Power Project in Godda