The government on Saturday said Adani Port and SEZ Ltd (APSEZ) may have to pay higher penalty for causing environmental damage and violating green clearance and conditions at its Mundra project, after a media report earlier in the day stated the Ministry of Environment and Forests has actually waived off the penalty imposed on the company in 2013.
The UPA government had in 2012 imposed Rs 200 crore penalty on the company based on a report by a committee chaired by Sunita Narain, Director general, Centre for Science and Environment. The findings were made public through a Right to Information query and the committee recommended that APSEZ pay a penalty of one per cent of the total project cost or Rs 200 crore, whichever is higher.
After the Business Standard broke the news of the waiver, the environment ministry made it clear that its decision is 'much more stringent than asking for Rs 200 crore from APSEZL, said a report in The Hindu.
The ministry said APSEZL may have to pay a fine far greater than what was fixed by the UPA government in 2013, for the environmental damage caused by the construction of its port project in Mundra, Gujarat. The Ministry issued a statement signed by Bishwanath Sinha, Joint Secretary, ministry of environment, stating that the fine was 'not backed by any law under the Environment Protection Act and was not legally correct.'
After penalising the company in 2013, the UPA government in April 2014 had noted that the “creation of ERF (environment relief fund) as not supported by any Law,” Sinha has said. Not withstanding that, the NDA government has also accepted the recommendations of the Sunita Narain Committee and, in its statement, said it had imposed stringent conditions with open ended financial commitment by APSEZL.
The Adani group has also been fined Rs 25 crore by the National Green Tribunal for environmental damage caused by its Hazira Port in Gujarat.
The then Environment Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan had said that due to APSEZL’s non-compliance of environmental clearance, there was widespread destruction of mangroves and deterioration and loss of creeks near the proposed North Port. Seventy-five hectares of mangroves have been lost in Bocha Island, which was declared as a conservation zone, the minister had said.