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Reliance Power Ltd (RPL) misrepresented facts to get green nod

Written By mediavigil on Monday, November 24, 2008 | 10:15 PM

The company misrepresented a key fact in its application seeking environmental clearance from the Union government for its 4,000MW power plant at Shahapur in Maharashtra

New Delhi: Reliance Power Ltd, or RPL, part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, misrepresented a key fact in its application seeking environmental clearance from the Union government for its 4,000MW power plant at Shahapur in Maharashtra, according to court documents that have been reviewed by Mint.

The late 2006 application stated that the project would not involve any change in existing rules on purposes for which land in the area could be used.

Court documents, however, show that these rules, also called land-use rules, for the area were amended by the Maharashtra government earlier this year at the company’s insistence, to allow a power plant to be built in the area.

A spokesperson for the company acknowledged receipt of a detailed questionnaire from Mint but had not responded to it till late Wednesday evening.

According to the norms of the ministry of environment and forests, or MoEF, that issues such clearances, misrepresentation of facts could lead to the rejection of a project and a revoking of the earlier approval. An MoEF official, who did not want to be named, said that under the law, the ministry could do this. The official was speaking generally and not about the Reliance case.

In this case, Reliance Power applied for an environmental clearance for the project to MoEF, through its subsidiary Maharashtra Energy Generation Ltd, or MEGL, on 5 December 2006. At the time, the company claimed there would be no change required in land-use laws governing the land on which the plant was to be built.

The ministry approved the project on 21 November 2007. And the Maharashtra government, on 11 August 2008, revised land-use laws in the area and said, “M/s Maharashtra Energy Generation Limited, Mumbai, has requested government to include the said lands into industrial zone for the purpose of setting up of power project and other related infrastructure facilities.”

The documents do not say when MEGL applied to the state government asking for a change in land-use laws.

The court documents pertain to a case being heard by the National Environment Appellate Authority, or NEAA, and filed by a local farmer group, the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti.

NEAA reserved its judgement at the last hearing on 15 October.

According to these documents, the land where the project is to come up is classified as Green Zone II. According to rules governing land use in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region under which Shahapur falls, land in Green Zone II may be used only for agricultural and allied activities with the quarrying of stone and mechanized stone crushing being permitted with prior approval of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

Also See Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 (PDF)

“The regional plan clearly puts the area in Green Zone II from 1996-2011 because it is eco-sensitive. But all this has been ignored...,” said Anil Patil, secretary, Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti.

The commissioner of MMRDA, Ratnakar Gaikwad, could not be contacted and did not respond to a message left in his office.

The Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti had separately also filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court in 2006 against the land acquisition for the project by the state government. On 22 October, the court upheld the state government’s right to revise land use. It also allowed the state government to acquire the land, but not possess it.

Samir Kurkoti, additional district collector, Raigad, refused comment on the state government’s decision to change land-use laws and said, “Land acquisition is in progress.”

Reliance Power has projects with a total capacity of 28,941MW in its portfolio. Of these, projects generating 941MW have already been commissioned. The rest are in various stages of planning and execution.

According to the company’s red herring prospectus dated 1 January, the 4,000MW Shahapur coal and Shahapur gas combined gas-fired and coal-fired power project will require an investment of Rs13,200 crore.

Padmaparna Ghosh and Utpal Bhaskar

Environmental Challenges

Pollution: Each kind of pollution- air, noise, water- has significant impacts to our everyday lives, affecting all living and non-living factors in the biosphere and the atmosphere and also involve socio-economic factors. These impacts have caused significant changes to the environment we are living in.

Deforestation: They are the earth’s largest depository of natural resources and house half of the planet’s dryland species. But man’s greed is putting a saw through the fragile ecosystem and over the years half of the world’s forests have been transformed into a concrete jungle. Indiscriminate felling of trees for fuel and timber or for housing and agriculture purposes has gone on unabated despite the clichés mouthed by environmentalists and a line of successive governments.

Soil Erosion: Floods and soil erosion are two of India's greatest problems. Neither is new, but there can be no doubt that in recent years floods are taking an increasing toll on crops and the rapid progress of soil erosion in different parts of the country has caused grave concern. India is thought to be losing 4.7 billion tons of topsoil a year, mostly through water erosion. Its monsoonal climate, with the concentration of rainfall during a few months of the year, leaves its exposed soils vulnerable to erosion. About 60 percent of soil that is washed away ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, making waterways more prone to flooding and to contamination from soil's fertilizers and pesticides. Soil erosion also reduces the ability of soil to store water and support plant growth, thereby reducing its ability to support biodiversity.

Land Degradation: Decline in land quality caused by human activities has been a major global issue during the 20th century and will remain high on the international agenda in the 21st century. The importance of land degradation among global issues is enhanced because of its impact on world food security and quality of the environment. High population density is not necessarily related to land degradation; it is what a population does to the land that determines the extent of degradation. People can be a major asset in reversing a trend towards degradation. However, they need to be healthy and politically and economically motivated to care for the land, as subsistence agriculture, poverty, and illiteracy can be important causes of land and environmental degradation.

Waste Management: Urban India is likely to face a massive waste disposal problem in the coming years. Until now, the problem of waste has been seen as one of cleaning and disposing as rubbish. But a closer look at the current and future scenario reveals that waste needs to be treated holistically, recognising its natural resource roots as well as health impacts. Waste can be wealth, which has tremendous potential not only for generating livelihoods for the urban poor but can also enrich the earth through composting and recycling rather than spreading pollution as has been the case. Increasing urban migration and a high density of population will make waste management a difficult issue to handle in the near future, if a new paradigm for approaching it is not created.

Increasing Energy Consumption: India faces a huge energy deficit: till 2001, only 44 per cent of Indian households had access to electricity. But consumption’s galloping: between 1947 and 2001, India’s per capita power consumption rose from 15 to 592 units. If India has to move ahead economically, it must find ways to bridge the deficit.

High Carbon Emissions: Carbon dioxide emissions are causing the Earth’s climate to change and warm, which will have catastrophic results if we do not act to reduce them. Carbon dioxide emissions in our atmosphere are at their highest levels in recorded history, spanning over 650,000 years. The effects of climate change can be seen now. Temperatures are increasing, glaciers are receding at unprecedented speeds and storms are becoming more frequent and severe.

Source: NDTV
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