Amid reports that Adani Port and SEZ Ltd (APSEZ) was spared a hefty fine of Rs 200 crore for environmental damage during construction of Mundra port, the Environment Ministry on Sunday said the claims are “incorrect” and it had imposed “more serious” responsibility on the firm without any cost limit.
According to reports, the erstwhile UPA government had in 2013 imposed a fine of Rs 200 crore on the company for environmental damage caused during construction of its port at Mundra in Gujarat and that the present NDA dispensation has waived the penalty.
“The inference drawn by the news report is not correct. The present government has not cancelled fine of Rs 200 crore. This decision of the ministry is much more stringent than asking for Rs 200 crore from APSEZL because here in this case whatever has been recommended by the Sunita Narain Committee for damage restoration and further conservation has to be borne by APSEZL which otherwise was limited to Rs 200 crore,” the Ministry said in a statement.
“It is amply clear that the Environment Ministry has not withdrawn its demand for Rs 200 crore restoration fund. This government has passed an order in a legally correct framework and also imposed more serious responsibility upon the project proponent without any cost limit,” the Ministry said.
The then UPA government had issued a show-cause notice to APSEZL based on a report by the committee chaired by Sunita Narain, the Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The committee report – based on an investigation and made public through a Right to Information query – recommended that an Environment Relief Fund (ERF) worth one percent of the project cost or Rs 200 crore, whichever was higher, ought to be created to remedy any environmental damage incurred.
Ministry sources said the UPA dispensation had in April, 2014 noted that its show-cause notice for creation of Environment Relief Fund (ERF) was not backed by any law under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and is “not legally correct”.
“The present government in September, 2015, after having been satisfied with the necessity to undertake restoration of degraded environmental components and further conservation as recommended by Sunita Narain Committee, directed for more stringent conditions with open ended financial commitment by APSEZL for financing the study; restoration and integrated conservation for protection of creeks, mangrove areas, conservation of Bocha island,” the Ministry said.