The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has held that Vedanta's mining plant in Goa's Dharbandora area can't operate without due environment clearance (EC).
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the project could restart once the company gets clearance.
"We hold that the application is maintainable and the requirement of prior EC for operating the plants in question by Respondent No 4 (Vedanta) is attracted," NDTV quoted the bench as saying.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by NGO Goa Foundation, which challenged the operation of the company's plant at Codli village in Dharbandora. The NGO held that the Vedanta lacks the required EC as per the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification. It added that the plant was operating on the strength of Consent To Operate granted by the state pollution control board in 2019.
The bench said that the plant restarted its operations in 2019 even though it lacked the EC. The tribunal noted that EC is required even if the plant initially started in 2006.
"The initial location of the plant at a time when EC was not required was different. It is clear from the record that such location changed in 2012, i.e. after September 14, 2006. Since working of the plant prior to 2019 is not in issue, we are only considering the issue of recommencement in the year 2019," the bench said.
The bench said Vedanta's argument that the EC was not applicable in 1997 when the plant was initially set up is not sufficient to hold that it is not required even after the plant was set up in a different location.
The bench observed that the violation in the case presented is of serious nature. It said that the tribunal could not avoid the matter when there is concern regarding direct violation of a specific statutory obligation.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State Pollution Control Board will take further remedial action following the rule of law.