By LE Desk

New Delhi, March 9: The National Green Tribunal has held that Vedanta NSE’s mining plant in Dharbandora area in Goa cannot operate without obtaining Environment Clearance (EC). A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the recommencement of the plant in 2019 can only be done after obtaining EC.

“Accordingly, we hold that the application is maintainable and requirement of prior EC for operating the plants in question by Respondent no. 4 (Vedanta) is attracted. The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Goa State Pollution Control Board may take further remedial action in accordance with this finding to enforce the rule of law,” the bench said.

The tribunal said the plant has recommenced in the year 2019, such recommencement is required to be after the grant of EC even if the plant was initially started prior to the year 2006.

“More so, the initial location of the plant at a time when EC was not required was different. It is clear from the record that such location changed in the year 2012 i.e. after September 14, 2006. Since working of the plant prior to 2019 is not in issue, we are only considering the issue of recommencement in the year 2019.

“Such recommencement in our view required EC. The contention that when the plant was initially set up in the year 1997, the requirement of notification was not applicable is not sufficient to hold that EC is not required even after the plant started at a different location,” the bench said, reported The Economic Times.

On the issue of maintainability of the plea challenging operation of the plant, the bench said the mere fact that there is a prayer for quashing Consent To Operate (CTO) does not render the application not maintainable.

“The tribunal cannot avoid responsibility in dealing with the matter where direct violation of specific statutory obligation is pointed out. Violation alleged in the present case is of serious nature of not having requisite EC, which is crucial regulatory the requirement under a statutory notification.

This cannot be ignored nor any commercial establishment committed to rule of law can oppose this being done,” the bench said.

The NGT was hearing a plea filed by NGO Goa Foundation Question challenging operation of Vedanta plant located at Codli Village in Dharbandora on former mining lease without requisite Environment Clearance (EC) as per EIA Notification only on the strength of Consent to Operate granted by the Goa State PCB in 2019.

According to the applicant, after the judgment of the Supreme Court in Goa Foundation vs. Sesa Sterlite Ltd NSE & Ors, mining operations were halted leading to the closure of the beneficiation plants in question.

The same subsequently commenced, after the CTO dated September 19, 2019, granted by the state pollution control board for the process of 2.1 million tonnes of ore per annum, without requisite EC.

It said the mere fact that initially the plants were set up at the time the EIA notification did not exist will not matter.

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