New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to consider on merits applications challenging grant of environmental clearance for the construction of a deep-sea port in Vizhinjam, near Kovalam, Kerala.
A three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.K. Sikri and Ms. R. Banumathi lifted a stay imposed last year on the proceedings before the NGT to review the constitutionality of a 2011 Coastal Regulation Zone notification exempting coastal areas of “outstanding natural beauty” like Vizhinjam from protection.
The port project had got environmental and coastal zone regulation clearance from the Union Environment Ministry on January 3 this year.
The bench asked the NGT to hear and decide the case within six weeks. It said that there wouldn’t be any adjournments or interim orders that would be passed in the case and said matter in the apex court will remain pending till NGT passes its final order.
Adani Ports and Special Economic Zones Ltd (APSEZ), India’s biggest private port operator, won the contract for the Rs.6,000-crore project. Construction of the port started on 17 November.
The port and Kerala government challenged the NGT’s order shifting applications from Chennai bench to the Principal bench in Delhi. The Principal Bench had transferred the case to look into the question of whether a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification issued in 2011 should be amended to include the Vizhinjam coast in Kerala as “an area of outstanding natural beauty” and “likely to be inundated due to rise in sea level consequent upon global warming” and, thus, put it in CRZ-I category.
The CJI observed "We can understand if a poor person objects to coming to Delhi from Chennai. But here, it is Adani, one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in the country," and directed the matter to be heard in Delhi.
Appearing for VSIL, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal called the Principal Bench’s decision “illegal” and the order was passed without any jurisdiction. He said the port, once completed, would be “one of its kind in India, near international shipping lines and is a deep-water port.”
He said the success of the port was in public interest, and it would also serve as a berth for the Navy.
Kerala had justified the Environment clearance saying the project “is of great importance to the State of Kerala not only because of its national importance in strategic, military and economic terms but also because it will permit cruise tourism in Kerala, provide thousands of jobs, and contribute to the overall economic development of the State.”
On behalf of fishermen, it was submitted that by the project, not only the ecology and environment of that area would be affected but there would also be adverse impact on their livelihood....