Udupi: In a major blow to Adani's Udupi Power Plant Project at Yellur Village of Udupi District, The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal declared on March 14, 2019 that all the clearances granted to set up the power plant are illegal. It has also ordered the suspension of the Environmental Clearance dated August 1, 2017, granted to expand the plant by addition of 2x88MW units to rise ultimate capacity to 2800MW. The Tribunal invoked the "Poluter Pays" principle and appointed a committee of experts to ascertain the damages to the crops and the environment in general of the area. It has directed the company to pay 5 croresas an interimn environmental compensation to CPCB who will also be the Nodal agency to study the damages caused. It has also ordered the company to pay Rs 1 lakh as cost to the Petitioners.
The Tribuanl found that genuinely serious issues raised by the villagers and the applicants had not been given the attention it observed by all concerned including the government. Environmental Clearances dated March 20, 1997, had been granted without following the due process statutorily prescribed and mandatorily required to be followed. Extention of the validity period of the EC had been granted on April 16, 2002, at the request of the project proponent as work could not be commenced within the 5 years period stipulated in the EC. This is without authority of law. On October 5, 2004, the EC was cancelled by the Ministry as the project proponent had still not commenced with the work of the project. This order of cancellation was recalled vide a personal letter dated January 31, 2005 by the Director MOEF under questionable circumstances at the request of the project proponent.
Tribunal took a serious note of the study carried out on "Environmental Profile and People's livelihood aspects in the vicinity of Coal based Thermal Power Plant at Yellur Panchayat, Udupi District" by a group of Scientists as CES Technical Report 126 dated April 2012 published by the Energy and Wetland Research Group, Centre of Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has made alarming obesrvations in respect of the project area during field investigations. It has been observed that 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. Stunted growth of saplings and enhanced respiratory diseases, etc were noticed caused by the release of saline mist from the cooling towers of the plant whichis locally dispersed by the wind even up to 2 kms.
The tribunal found the conduct of the MoEF&CC in the entire episode does not appear to the above board. The tribunal expresses grave anguish and concern which in its view ought to the corrected and left it upon the MoEF&CC to deal with this ascept as their wisdom may dictate.
The tribunal observed that justifiably, therefore, the directions would be called for to remove the plantand order for restoration of the area and the environment. However, considering the facts and circumstances, the lapse of time and the fait accompli situation that has arisen, we are of the view that the interest of the public will not be served in passing such order. The need of the hour is to explore such measures and steps that would mitigate the harm already caused in addition to ensuring that the plant operates strictly within the environmental norms. It has thus invoked the " Polluted Pays" principle under section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 and hold M/s. Udupi Power Corporation Ltd.,the Respondent No.5, project proponent, liable to pay Envionmental Compensation which shall be assessed by a Committee of Experts. It has constituted a Committee comprising of -1, Senior Scientist, CPCB. 2. Senior Representative, IIT Chennai. 3. Senior Scientist , IIT Bangalore. CPCB shall be the nodal agency to coordinate amongnst the Members for taking up the task.
The State of Karnataka actually does not need power from the plant and Govt has either stopped or consideraly reduced recieving the supply from UPCL. the Energy dept website show that as on July 31, 2018 the total generation power from various sources has increased to 27,176.43 MW out of which 4,713.26MW is Wind Energy and 5,172.72MW is Solar among others. The website also shows that the available potential of the Renewable Energy totals to 86,792MW of which Wind Energy is 55,857MW and Solar 24,700MW. With such RE potential the killer coal-based power plants are not at all required in the State leave alone in the sensitive Ecologically Coastal Zone. As such the State Govt is required to issue directions to UPCL to shut it down and shift it to another place perhaps another country like Bangladesh.It has alos come to the knowledge of the Samithi that UPCL is now planning new transmission lines to supply power to other states perhaps through the grid a Kerala. It would only mean that we would be used as sacrificial lambs for the company and this will not be acceptable.
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