By Anwar Traya*
The Kandla Juth Machimar Sahakari Mandli Ltd is a fisherfolks’ cooperative society working in the Kandla region of Kutch district in Gujarat. Welspun Industries Ltd (WIL) is a having steel plant and a textile unit nearby, in Anjar town, Kutch. WIL has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gandhidham Nagarpalika for collection, treatment and recycling of 45 million litres per day (MLD) sewage water, costing Rs 226 crore as a public private partnership (PPP) project.
As per the MoU, the treated water is to be used by WIL, and the rest is to be disposed of, along with WIL’s 15 MLD of industrial effluent, into the deep sea in Gulf of Kutch through the Nakti Creek region via a subsea pipeline and disposal facility.
The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) accorded coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance certificate, wide F. No.11-22/2015-IA-III, for laying of pipeline on 9th October 2015 to WIL. The MoEFCC gave following conditions in the CRZ clearance for 9.4-km-long pipeline in the CRZ area, which passes through the Kandla Port Trust area:
- All the conditions/recommendations stipulated by the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) vide letter No ENV-10-2015-172-E dated 10.06.2015, should be complied with, including the provision that the pipeline should be laid down 5 meters below ground in the CRZ area using horizontal directional drilling (HDD) techniques.
- The project proponent should prepare a mangrove management plan to conserve mangrove resources for the maximum benefit of humans in order to minimize those non-sustainable or conversion activities that lead to the destruction of mangrove resources. There should be full protection of the mangrove area’s flora and fauna by banning the extraction of mangrove wood. There should also be no permanent damage to mudflats and mangroves in any way.
- The project proponent should not undertake any destruction of mangroves during the construction period. In unavoidable situations, identification of endangered mangrove species along the pipeline route should be done. Further, there should be restoration and rehabilitation of degraded mangroves on a suitable location by undertaking planting of suitable species before commissioning of pipeline. This should be done in consultation with the forest department. There should be regular monitoring for any changes in the mangrove area, whose floristic, faunal and physiographic composition should also be preserved.
- There should be no construction in the mud flat/mangroves area, except for laying down of pipeline, which should be done by way of HDD.
- There should be no disposal of solid and liquid wastes into the coastal areas.
- No construction work other than those permitted in the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011 should be carried out in the Coastal Regulation Zone area.
During the construction of the pipeline, WIL made an earthen bund to lay down the pipeline by open digging, destroying mangroves and mudflats, which are eco-sensitive zones of the CRZ 1A areas, as per the CRZ notification 2011. The pipeline was laid on the ground, instead of 5 meters below the surface of the creek in the coastal zone.
A complaint was lodged for violation of the CRZ notification and destruction of mangroves to the state government, the central government, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the district collector in March 2016 with a reminder.
Yet, no action was taken.
So, the Kandla Juth Machimar Sahakari Mandli Ltd approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) western zone (WZ), Pune, and filed a petition wide 90/2016 for violation of CRZ notification and CRZ clearance certificate conditions, and prayed to stay the ongoing violation and destruction of environment and ecology of the Nakti Creek coastal zone. The petition said, the pipeline and its disposal of industrial effluent would affect fisheries, biodiversity and ecology of the Nakti Creek and the Gulf.
The main objections were:
- The pipeline was laid by open digging, harming the mangroves and mudflats of Nakti creek.
- The pipeline was not laid 5 meters below the ground level, as specified in the GCZMA and CRZ clearances.
- Permanent construction was made while laying down the pipeline, and a cemented structure was constructed on surface at the Nakti Creek and CRZ area.
- The permission was for laying 500 mm diameter pipeline, but the company laid down 800 mm pipes.
- Without sewage treatment plant (STP) having been established, WIL started using the pipeline by disposing of untreated sewage into the sea.
- The fixed structure of the pipeline would create risk to the fishing boats and fishing nets as it is in the intertidal zone of Nakti creek. The cemented structure could damage the bottom of the boat and could lead to accidents.
NGT constituted an experts committee under the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, for investigation of the ground. The committee submitted its report, saying that the pipeline was laid down without HDD and there was destruction of mangroves. The pipeline was also found functional during field visit.
There was hearing on the issue on 18th July, 4th August and 29th November, but the respondents failed to submit any reply. The respondents were:
- Union of India through, secretary, MoEFCC.
- Regional Office (MoEFCC, Bhopal western zone office).
- The State of Gujarat through secretary, environment and forest department.
- The Chairman, Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority.
- The district collector, Kutch.
- Chairman, Gujarat Pollution control Board (GPCB) Gandhinagar.
- Welspun Industries Ltd. Anjar.
On 29th November 2016 hearing, the court passed an order asking all respondent to deposit Rs 50,000 each to the district collector, Kutch, for not submitting any reply in this case. The amount would be utilized for restoration purposes. MSH Sheikh, environmental activist, Surat, and Usmangani Sherasiya, secretary, National Fish Workers’ Forum, provided legal and technical support to the Kandla Juth Machimar Sahakari Mandli Ltd.
President, Kandla Juth Machimar Sahakari Mandli Ltd, Gandhidham, Kutch