Environmental damage in Gujarat could cost the Adani Group heavy.

A committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests has found “incontrovertible evidence of violation of environmental clearances conditions and non-compliance.”

The five-member committee headed by the Director General of Centre for Science and Environment, Sunita Narain, has suggested that an Environment Restoration Fund, worth at least one per cent of the project cost (including cost of the thermal power) or Rs 200 crore should be created. The committee has said that not initiating such a deterrent action for environmental violations will only lead to “the issue remaining unresolved and conflicted and will delay action to improve the environment and the livelihoods of people.”

It has been recommended that this Fund should be used for remedying the environmental damage done to the area.

The Adani project had three different components – Mundra Port area later called waterfront development, a thermal power plant and a special economic zone (SEZ). The committee has found that constructions related to the project has blocked many creeks that have obstructed the natural flow of seawater; large-scale destruction of mangrove; inefficient utilisation and disposal of fly ash resulting in pollution; increase of salinity of groundwater and non-compliance with reporting requirements. In many cases, the committee has found, the construction had been started even before the project received clearances.

Few of the recommendations made by the panel are — cancellation of environmental clearance to the north port, protection and regeneration of mangroves, proper monitoring of fly ash disposal, assessment of earthquake and tsunami risk, and the development of a fishing harbour to address the livelihood concerns of fishermen.

Reacting to the development, a spokesperson for Adani Group, said, “As a responsible corporate, we have been complying with the applicable rules and regulations. We will continue to work closely with the Government for preservation of environment and upliftment of the communities in which we operate. We are studying the report in detail and will work out appropriate steps. The north port has not been developed at all and hence this will not impact the current operations of the company.”