State wants MoEF to defer probe panelís visit to APSEZ

Citing the upcoming Assembly elections, the state government is learnt to have requested the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to postpone the scheduled visit of a committee investigating alleged violations of environment laws by the Adani Port and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) in Mundra, Kutch.

The MoEF had in September formed a five-member committee headed by environmentalist Sunita Narain.

Speaking to The Indian Express from New Delhi over phone, Narain said she has asked the MoEF to take a view on the government's request "and I am awaiting their response."

"I do not see how the committee, which has been given a three-month term to investigate a private company, is related to Assembly elections. Nevertheless, I hope to receive a reply from the ministry soon, so I can ready my team and plan the trip to Kutch," she added.

While state's environment secretary H K Dash could not be contacted despite repeated efforts, Chief Secretary A K Joti, who was on official leave for some time, said he was unaware about the development.

The committee's brief was to investigate whether APSEZ had distorted 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", whether mangroves were destroyed or sand dunes levelled, whether the conglomerate's power plant there was following norms and if it was causing salinity ingress or properly handling fly ash, among others.

The MoEF had cited three instances as the basis for which it formed the committee, including complaints filed separately by local groups Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) and the Kheti Vikas Sewa Trust (KVST).

KVST had taken the APSEZ to court last year over alleged violation of environment clearance.

The third instance is the findings of the ministry's own site inspections of December 2010, which was in response to MASS's earlier complaints.

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