Environment laws: Narain panel wraps up three-day probe visit of Mundra

The Union Environment Ministry-appointed Sunita Narain Committee wrapped up its three-day investigative visit of Mundra, the coastal taluka in Kutch where the Adani Port and Special Economic Zone is situated, on Wednesday.

Narain told The Indian Express at Bhuj airport that they toured the area extensively and were accompanied by both affected communities and company representatives.

"We took them along so we could hear their versions too. We heard their representations and we visited creeks, salt pans, mangrove regions and sand dunes to examine various allegations of violations of environment laws," she said, adding the committee visited various power plants there, including those built by Adani and Tata and even went till the outlets of the plants on the edge of the Gulf of Kutch.

Witnesses associated with neither locals nor the industrial houses reported that some locals alleged in front of the committee that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was being used selectively to divide the communities. The coast is inhabited by various religious and caste groups that make up the fishing, salt pan, pastoral and farming groups.

Industrial houses have spent huge amount of money on CSR activities in the region, including for building schools and hospitals.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests had formed the five-member committee in September 2012 and gave it a term of three months, but the state government had asked it not to visit the region before the elections, citing the model code of conduct. The MoEF had set up the committee to look at various allegations levelled against the multinational by locals in court as well as by other avenues.

Besides Narain, committee members include Chennai-based Anthony Gnanamuthu, Prof. Ramchandran Ramesh from Chennai's Anna University, A Mehrotra, director of the MoEF's regional office at Bhopal, and Lalit Kapur, a director at the ministry's office.

The ministry tasked the committee to look into issues regarding the alleged distortion of the High Tide Line by bunding, diverting or blocking creeks, "whether construction of Mundra port, roads, railway was taken up prior to grant of forest/environmental clearance", "the destruction of mangroves and levelling of sand dunes", compliance issues regarding the company's power plant, if and how agriculture would be impacted due to salinity ingress "due to creation of huge water body of sea water for Adani Power Plant" and "issues related to handling of fly ash", among others.

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