Reports state that the environment ministry has also withdrawn several stringent conditions earlier issued on the Adani group.
New Delhi: According to news reports, on July 2, the Modi government waived off a Rs 200 crore fine that had been imposed on the Adani group by the UPA government. In April 2013, an environment ministry panel of the UPA government stated that the port and SEZ project of Adani group in Gujarat’s Mundra had violated green clearance conditions and suggested imposition of penalty of at least Rs 200 crore on the Adani group for this offence. The five member committee, headed by Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, had said in its report, “There is incontrovertible evidence that Adani project has violated environmental norms.”
At Rs 200 crore, this was the largest ever fine imposed on a company for violating environmental norms. The committee headed by Sunita Narain headed had reported that the company’s activities had caused severe damage to the local ecology and had also involved illegal reclamation of land. “Seventy-five hectares of mangroves have been lost in Bocha Island, which was declared as a conservation zone. The company has not taken precautions to guard against blocking of creeks because of construction activities; satellite imagery shows signs of deterioration and loss of creeks near the proposed North Port,” it had said.
The committee had recommended either the setting up of an Environmental Relief Fund toward dealing with the environmental damage or a fine of Rs 200 crore, whichever was higher.
Reports have stated that the environment ministry under the Modi government has, in addition to waiving the fine, withdrawn several stringent conditions the ministry had earlier issued to the Adani group during UPA II’s term. It has also extended the environmental clearance issued in 2009 to the company’s waterfront development project at Mundra. The ministry records from 2012 to 2016 indicate that particular newly appointed senior officials had reversed the decision on the Adani group. The records were made public through an RTI inquiry by Kanchi Kohli of the Centre for Policy Research-Namati Program.
The Congress criticised the government’s decision to waive off the fine and accused it of favouring the company by allowing it to get away with damaging the environment. It plans to raise the issue in the Parliament during the monsoon session. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “RTI documents obtained by us reveal that the Narendra Modi government favoured Adani to flout environment norms (sic). Modi chants Adani eva Jayate instead of Satyameva Jayate.”
Ramesh also added, “When the reports appeared in the public domain, the Modi government said they had done no such thing. But if one takes a look at the Ministry’s files, it’s absolutely clear that the decision to not enforce the ₹200-crore fine and the recommendations of an expert committee to restore the environment in Mundra port have been completely sabotaged.”
However, after it was reported that the fine imposed on the Adani group had been waived off, the government responded by denying that any such decision had been taken. In a statement on the night of June 2, the environment ministry said that the fine had not been withdrawn. It asserted that the Adani port and SEZ ltd. (APSEZL) would actually have to pay a much greater fine for the environmental damage its port in Mundra caused. The statement issued was signed by Bishwanath Sinha, joint secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The statement also noted, “It is amply clear that MoEF&CC has not withdrawn its demand for Rs.200 crore restoration fund. The decision of the ministry is much more stringent than asking for Rs 200 crore from APSEZL.”