For willful suppression of facts by NTPC

The National Green Tribunal has suspended the environmental clearance to NTPC’s 2400 MW Kudgi Super Thermal Power Plant thermal power project in Bijapur, Karnataka for falsifying information while seeking the mandatory green nod. The NTPC approached the Supreme Court within 24 hours appealing against the tribunal’s order. willful

The project got the clearance from the Environment Ministry in January 2012. The public sector company instead of disclosing that the plant was located on prime agricultural land, claimed it was a barren land.

This was done to avoid adverse decision from the environmental authorities as the Ministry does not encourage setting up of thermal power plants and other industrial units on prime agricultural land. wilfull

Calling it a ‘wilful suppression of facts,’ the tribunal ordered the Ministry to re-evaluate the case and put the existing clearance under the Environment Protection Acton hold.

The tribunal said, “It may be concluded that the land in question is not mostly barren & rocky as informed by the NTPC to the Union Environment and Forests Ministry, which may be taken as wilful suppression of facts.”

The NTPC in its submissions for the green nod had told the Ministry that the land was mostly barren and rocky and only partly agricultural with single crop plantation. This the tribunal said “laid down the foundation for consideration and grant of the environmental clearance” and the Ministry took it as gospel truth.

The tribunal noted that there were various sets of evidence brought out to show that the land had been actually well cultivated by farmers who had several tube wells in the region for past 40 years and had been producing crops and vegetables.

Ministry gets away lightly

The Ministry itself got away lightly, with the tribunal only recording that it had not verified the facts and taken them at face value, but the green quasi-court did not pass any strictures against the government for doing so. “It is clear that the NTPC had not correctly filled in the above columns and these have been so relied upon by the authorities, particularly the MoEF without any verification. Besides that, land in excess of the stated requirement is being used for the project in question. It, thus, further shows that it is largely agricultural land, which is sought to be acquired and is intended to be used for the project.”

The tribunal noted that even the satellite imagery in the environment impact assessment report submitted to the Ministry and prepared by consultants hired by the NTPC did not support the claims of the company.

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