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Minutes of CRZ clearance to Mithi Virdi N-plant silent on dangers to Alang Yard

Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti’s (PSS’) senior activists Krishnakant, Rohit Prajapati and Swati Desai have written a letter to Anil Razdan, chairman, Expert Appraisal Committee for Projects related to Infrastructure Development, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, New Delhi, opposing the recent CRZ clearance recommended for the proposed Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant at village Mithi Virdi, Dist Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Copy of the letter:

In March 2015 we read in the Indian Express that the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant had received the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance from the EAC of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
We thereafter became aware of the minutes of the 144th meeting of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for Projects related to Infrastructure Development, Coastal Regulation Zone, Building/Construction and Miscellaneous projects held on January 28-30, 2015 in which the broad, vague grounds for giving CRZ clearance to the proposed Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power plant are mentioned. It appears that the CRZ clearance is now rushed through all decision-making bodies, including the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, defeating the very purpose of setting up the CRZ norms, meant to protect the environment.
We oppose the CRZ recommendation on the following grounds:
The minutes give no clarity on the composition of the EAC, its members and most importantly have no mention of its findings even in the annexure.
The CRZ rules mandate that EAC should have visited the site and also consulted the local villagers who stand to be affected by the proposed project, which according to the local villagers as well as the local Panchayats never happened. This indicates that the EAC either never visited the site, or if it did, did not consult the local population and Panchayats and if that is the case then the visit should be considered unconstitutional and illegal.
The EAC studies and its discussion are not mentioned in the minutes of the 144th meeting at all, so neither the local villagers nor public have any knowledge as to what basis the EAC recommends the CRZ clearance. This prevents the people from forming an informed decision to support, contest or critique the CRZ clearance, which is in contradiction to the Constitution of India.
The EAC has indicated that a “groyne-based channel type seawater intake system has been proposed with the sump at the shore”. However, a detailed study considering the impact of the groyne on the long-shore drift of sediments and the likely pattern of erosion/accretion that may result has yet to be conducted, without which CRZ clearance should not be granted.
The mechanism by which the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will unload construction materials and heavy equipment for the proposed project is conspicuously absent from the proposal. The EAC has failed to inquire about how the company plans to go about sea-surface transport in the absence of a provision for the construction of a jetty.
The EAC minutes are silent about the potential danger posed to the coastal environment by the project’s proximity to Alang Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard. The Ship Breaking Yard, which has been functioning since 1983 and stretches over 10 km, is in the immediate vicinity of the proposed Mithi Virdi Power Plant. In fact, parts of the yard fall within the Village Jaspara, one of the villages land to be acquired by the NPCIL. The entire coastal area adjacent to the Yard is contaminated with solid, liquid, gaseous and hazardous waste including paint chips, asbestos, oily sludge, used/spent oil, toxic chemicals, radioactive waste, PCBs and ACMs. In the Writ Petition (C) No. 657 of 1995 the Supreme Court established a High Powered Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. M. G. K. Menon which averted that “at present there is no single point access to the yards and. therefore, hazardous waste is being illegally dumped at various places.”
It put forth the following recommendations to rectify the environmental and occupational health crisis at Alang:
Before a ship arrives at port, it should have proper consent from the authority concerned or the State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain any hazardous waste or radioactive sub-stances. AERB should be consulted in the matter in appropriate cases.
The ship should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to the breaking. This should be ensured by SPCBs.
Waste generated by the ship-breaking process should be classified into hazardous and non-hazardous categories, and their quantity should be made known to the authority concerned or the State Maritime Board.
Disposal of waste material viz, oil, cotton, dead cargo of inorganic material like hy-drated/solidified elements, thermocol pieces, glass wool, rubber, broken tiles, etc. should be done in a proper manner, utilising technologies that meet the criteria of an effective destruction efficiently of 99.9 per cent, with no generation of persistent organic pollutants, and complete containment of all gaseous, liquid and solid residues for analysis and, if needed, reprocessing. Such disposed of material should be kept at a specified place earmarked for this purpose. Special care must be taken in the handling of asbestos wastes, and total quantities of such waste should be made known to the authorities concerned. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board should authorise appropriate final disposal of asbestos waste.
The ship-breaking industries should be given authorization under Rule 5 of the HW Rules, 2003, only if they have provisions for disposal of the waste in environmentally sound manner. All authorisations should be renewed only if an industry has facilities for disposal of waste in environmentally sound manner.
The State Maritime Board should insist that all quantities of waste oil, sludge and other similar mineral oils and paint chips are carefully removed from the ship and taken immediately to areas outside the beach, for safe disposal.
There should be immediate ban of burning of any material whether hazardous or non-hazardous on the beach.
The State Pollution Control Board (of Gujarat and other coastal States where this ship-breaking activity is done) be directed to close all units which are not authorised under the HW Rules.
That the plots where no activities are being currently conducted should not be allowed to commence any fresh ship-breaking activity unless they have necessary authorisation.
The Gujarat PCBs should ensure continuous monitoring of ambient air and noise level as per the standards fixed. The Gujarat PCBs be further directed to install proper equipment and infrastructure for analysis to enable them to conduct first-level inspection of hazardous material, radioactive substances (wherever applicable). AERB shall be consulted in such cases.
The Gujarat SPCB should ensure compliance with the new Gujarat Maritime Board (Prevention of Fire and Accidents for Safety and Welfare of Workers and Protection of Environment during Ship breaking Activities) Regulations, 2000, by the Gujarat Maritime Board and should submit a compliance report to the Court within one year of the coming into force of the said Regulations.
The notification issued by GMB in 2001 on gas free for hot work, should be made mandatory and no ship should be given a beaching permission unless this certificate is shown. Any explosion irrespective of the possession of certification should be dealt with sternly and the licence of the plot-holder should be cancelled and the Explosives Inspector should be prosecuted accordingly for giving the false certificate.
A complete inventory of hazardous waste on board of ship should be made mandatory for the ship-owner. And no breaking permission should be granted without such an inventory. This inventory should also be submitted by GMB to SPCBs concerned to ensure safe disposal of hazardous and toxic waste.
The Gujarat Maritime Board and Gujarat SPCB officers should visit sites at regular intervals so that the plot-owners know that these institutions are serious about improvement in operational standards. An inter-ministerial Committee comprising Ministry of Surface Transport, Ministry of Steel, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Environment should be constituted with the involvement of labour and environment organisations and representatives of the ship-breaking industry.
SPCBs along with the State Maritime Boards should prepare landfill sites and incinerators as per CPCB guidelines and only after prior approval of CPCB. This action should be taken in a time-bound manner. The maximum time allowed should be one year.
At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on ship-breaking at the level of the International Maritime Organisation and the Basel Convention’s Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking. Participation should include from Central and State level.
The continuation or expansion of the Alang ship-breaking operations should be permitted subject to compliance with the above recommendations by the plot-holders.
The above conditions also apply to other ship-breaking activities in other coastal States.
The SC Order on Alang can be accessed here.

Rather than taking into consideration the present state of pollution at the Alang Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard-affected coastal area, the EAC Minutes merely state that there “is no intensive fishing activity in the proposed site”. It has studied neither how the proposed project will affect the rehabilitation effort mandated by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, nor has it properly examined the comprehensive impact on the fishing patterns and bio-diversity of this once-pristine coastal area.
On the Eastern side of the project site is the Golden Corridor, where industrial development and urbanisation has led to an alarming pollution level. The comprehensive impact of the Mithi Virdi Project on an already critically polluted coastal area with high ecological value has not been taken into account by the EAC in its recommendation for CRZ clearance.
The Village Mithi Virdi where the project is to be located inherits its name which means sweet water from its plethora of fresh ground water despite its proximity to the coast. In all, 152 villages with a population of more than 200,000 in 30 km radius of the proposed nuclear power plant will be “adversely affected” by the project. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. The rich alluvial soil here supports crops like groundnut, wheat, bajra, and cotton, and fruits like mango, chikoos and coconut. The area also grows and supplies vegetables like onion, brinjal, gourd, tomatoes, and drumsticks on a regular basis to other parts of the state, and the climate and the soil are suitable for cashew nuts. This rich agriculture is threatened by the proposed nuclear plant. The backbone of the local agrarian economy is its extremely fertile land which supports the growth of three crops, annually. The extraction of fresh water by the proposed plant and its impact on the local agriculture-dependent economy has not been mentioned in the consideration for CRZ.
Since the MoEF & CC too is proceeding in giving the CRZ clearance in a manner which indicates that its basic mandate of protecting environment is being diluted and mortgaged to protect and further vested interests, we demand:
That the EAC immediately withdraw its recommendation for the CRZ Clearance, as it has failed to take into consideration crucial components related to the coastal environment at Mithi Virdi area.
That EAC composition detail, its study for the proposed Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant and all the documents, including the Main Application of NPCIL for the CRZ clearance, that detail the reasons for which it recommends CRZ clearance be made public immediately, with a copy given to the residents and local Panchayat body.
That the citizens, particularly the residents and local bodies at Mithi Virdi area be given at least a month’s time to register their response to the CRZ clearance recommendation as mandated by the law.

The above points are merely a quick response to the cursory information provided in the EAC Minutes and do not constitute a comprehensive objection to the CRZ Clearance given to the proposed Mithi Virdi Project. We can only prepare a point-wise response after the Ministry provides us with all of the above-mentioned detailed project documents.

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