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Sunday 17 February 2013

Gujarat High Court stays construction work at Mundra SEZ

Gujarat High Court stays construction work at Mundra SEZ

Gujarat High Court stays construction work at Mundra SEZ
 Anupam Chakravartty
  Issue Date:

12 companies had gone ahead with construction of individual units despite
court questioning commencement of work without environment clearance

[image: image]Dredging on the Mundra coast has destroyed more than 1,000 ha
of mangroves (Photo: Vaibhav Raghunandan )

The Gujarat High Court has ordered a stay on the construction of individual
units in Gujarat's Mundra special economic zone (SEZ). These companies were
going ahead with construction in spite of the court's last year's order
that halted work because the developer had commenced work without obtaining
the mandatory environmental clearance first. These individual units have
imported goods and availed duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore till now and
were operating without any environmental clearance.

The multi-product Rs 14,000 crore SEZ in Kutch is being developed by Adani
Enterprises which had started building roads and flyovers, and a joint
venture company, Alstom SA Bharat, had started construction work for its
power project in the SEZ when the high court halted work at the site last
year. But some other companies went ahead with construction of their
individual units.

On Thursday, the Gujarat High Court ordered a stay on the construction of
these individual units in the SEZ as well. The order was given on a
petition by the affected villagers who challenged the construction of these
units without environmental clearance.

In all, 12 companies were found constructing their units in the SEZ,
prompting the filing of a fresh petition. "We filed a fresh petition as the
construction continued without any environmental clearance," says the legal
counsel for the affected village residents, Anand Yagnik.

A bench comprising chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B
Pardiwala issued notices to all the 12 companies. The bench also sent
notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the
managers of the SEZ. The next hearing is likely in another 15 days. Adani
or the individual companies were not available to comment on the latest
court order.

According to one of the petitioners, Jajubha Bhimji Jadeja, a resident of
Navinal village in Kutch, the 12 companies not only developed their units
but also imported goods worth Rs 2,086.89 crore in 2010-11 and exported
goods worth Rs 302 crore. "Further, the companies also received an import
duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore in spite of no environment clearance from
MoEF," said Jadeja in the fresh petition.

Earlier, fisher people of  Navinal had filed a petition, saying their daily
fish catch has been affected by the construction activity at the Mundra
port; the port and the SEZ are part of an integrated project. Right To
Information replies and other documents showed that most of the Mundra SEZ
is situated on village common land used for grazing.

On February 11, 2011, responding to a public interest petition by Mundra's
farmers, the Gujarat High Court served a notice to the Adani group and the
revenue department of the Gujarat government for illegally taking 93.48
hectares (ha) of Navinal's pastures for Mundra SEZ. Navinal is just one of
23 villages whose sarpanches sold grazing land for the project, spread over
18,000 ha, by allegedly keeping the gram sabhas (village councils) in the

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