Andhra Pradesh: Allocation of Sompeta wetlands for industrial purposes illegal, rules NGT

More than a decade after the Union Environment Ministry granted clearance for setting up a thermal power plant on the Sompeta wetlands in Andhra Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal has ruled that the allocation is against the provisions of the laws which ensure environmental conservation. Details here.

गाँव कनेक्शनगाँव कनेक्शन   19 April 2022 12:33 PM GMT

Andhra Pradesh: Allocation of Sompeta wetlands for industrial purposes illegal, rules NGTPhoto courtesy: Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History

In its judgment dated April 13, the southern zone of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruled that the allocation of land for industrial purposes in Andhra Pradesh's Sompetra area is illegal as it stands in violation of the the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010.

The judgment also stated that the allocation also runs contrary to the 'principle of sustainable development, the precautionary principle, the public trust doctrine and the eco-centric approach' propounded by the Supreme Court.

"The allotment of this land was opposed by the local farmers, fishing community and environmentalists as it related to government land occupied by watercourse, swamp lands and wetlands. The issue was raised before the public hearing as well. In spite of that, the project was granted Environmental Clearance dated 09.12.2009," the quasi-judicial body mentioned in its judgment.

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Ever since the environment clearance was granted by the Union government to set up industries in the environmentally sensitive area, members of the civil society along with some retired bureaucrats had been protesting against the decision.

The judgment mentioned that a study conducted by the Tamil Nadu-based Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) was referred to by the NGT while assessing the case and arriving at the conclusion that the area needs to be conserved. SACON was appointed by the Union Environment Ministry to assess the importance of this wetland, following which the centre submitted a report titled 'SACON Report' in July 2021.

"The wetlands complex is nearly 4000 acres and 20 km (kilometres) long covering parts of Baruva in Sompeta Mandal and Kapaasguddi in Kavitimandal. It is a wetland which is to be conserved under various State and Central Government policies and International treatises such as Ramsar Convention and the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules notified by the MoEF&CC [Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change].

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The judgment also mentioned that as per SACON's report, out of the 1,882 acres handed over to Nagarjuna Construction Company, 1200 acres were in the Beela. "This is highly fertile and 32 villages with population of around 3 lakhs depend upon the Beela for various purposes, for water for irrigation, fisheries, fodder, thatching materials, medicinal plants and several edible plants," NGT stated.

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