Abstract of National Green Tribunal Verdict
The numerous violations of law and irregularities in according Environmental Clearance (EC) to the Project by the MoEF( Ministry of Environment and Forest) was brought to the notice of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and after a close scrutiny, the Tribunal set aside the Environmental Clearance and restrained the proponent from carrying out any works in the site
Some of the observations and the final directions of the National Green Tribunal are:
· ‘Even a cursory scrutiny of the impugned EC would reveal the mechanical mindset and total lack of application of mind on the part of the authorities issuing such an important document of utmost sanctity’ (p.210).
· ‘We are of the considered view that the “conditions” cited above are typical examples of the (in)famous “Copy and Paste” from the list of conditions appended to the EC of some other project(s), without any application of mind and ‘non-verification’ of the document before placing the same for signature by the authorized signatory. We direct the MoEF to take steps to restore the sanctity of important documents such as the EC’ (p.212).
· ‘the Tribunal is able to notice a thorough failure on the part of the EAC( Environmental Appraisal Committee) in performing its duty of proper consideration and evaluation of the project by making a detailed scrutiny before approving the same’ (p. 215).
185. It is not as if the Tribunal is unmindful of its duty that a balance has to be struck between ecology and development in order to uphold the principles of sustainable development and precautionary principle as envisaged under section 20 of the NGT Act, 2010. Needless to say, striking a balance between the ecology and development is a difficult task. But, at the same time, it cannot be forgotten that for one’s sake other should not be sacrificed. A balance has to be struck whereby a compromise is made in order to achieve the development without causing environmental degradation and damaging ecology. Ordinarily, the contention put forth by the learned counsel for the appellants that if not the environmental issues and concerns were not considered, the conditions specified in respect of the particular project would not have been attached to the EC. But, in the instant case, all mandatory principles and guidelines as envisaged by the EIA( Environment Impact Assessment) Notification, 2006 have been violated by (1) Form I along with the application for EC. (2) incompetency of the consultant who prepared the EIA which is the basis for the grant of EC, (3) public hearing and public consultation and (4) non-application of mind and lack of due diligence.
186. In a democracy like ours, all natural resources are wealth of the country and in the custody of the State as a Trustee. They are all meant for public use and enjoyment and the public at large is the beneficiary of the same. The State as a Trustee is under legal obligation to protect them. We hope that the recommending body EAC and the regulatory agency MoEF are aware of the above concept of public trust and issue clearance for the development projects in tune with this concept.
187. Under such circumstances, the Tribunal is of the considered opinion that there is no option but to scrap the impugned EC granted by the MoEF to the 3rd respondent/project proponent for setting up the Aranmula airport.
188. In the result, the appeal Nos. 172-174 of 2013 (SZ) and 1 and 19 of 2014 (SZ) are allowed granting only the following reliefs.
189. It is declared:
1. That the 5th respondent, Consultant namely, M/s. Enviro Care India Pvt. Ltd., was not competent to prepare the EIA or appear before the EAC in respect of the proposed Aranmula Airport Project.
2. That the public hearing conducted for the proposed Aranmula Airport Project is in violation of the mandatory provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 and it is vitiated.
3. That the recommendation of the EIA made by EAC for the grant of EC in respect of the proposed Aranmula Airport Project as invalid.
4. The EC granted by the 1st respondent/MoEF in F.No. 10-51/2010-IA.III dated 28.11.2013 is set aside and consequently, the 3rd respondent/Project Proponent namely, KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd., is restrained from carrying out any activities either constructional or otherwise in respect of the Aranmula Airport Project on the strength of the above environmental clearance.