Panjim: In a major victory to the State, the National Green Tribunal upheld the Environmental Clearance (EC) given to the Mopa airport currently under construction.
Disposing off the appeals filed by Federation of Rainbow Warriors, Margao and Hanuman Laxman Aroskar and another, NGT stated there is no case of the project compromising with the environment.
The NGT bench comprised Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (chairperson), Justice Jawad Rahim (judicial member), Justice SP Wangdi (judicial member) and (expert member).
Upholding the stay, NGT also put some strict conditions for the State to comply with. The bench observed that the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) had taken various points into consideration.
“The EAC has put a point wise reply of the project proponent wherein delay in land acquisition process and collection of fresh baseline data are mentioned. It is also mentioned that data for Maharashtra was also considered,” the order stated.
It further said that other issues duly explained are
hydro-geological features and data with regard to flora and fauna, socio-economic profile, topography, vegetation, observance of due procedure in public hearing, relevance of study with regard to eco-sensitive areas of Western Ghats, feasibility of proposed airport in terms of cost benefit analysis as well as environmental cost benefit analysis.
“EAC also considered the data compiled by various offices. Mere fact that different opinions have been expressed by other experts is not enough to hold that EAC did not apply its mind,” NGT observed.
It further said that as regards the requirement of study of 15km radius instead of 10 km, it was explained that as per column requirement of 15 km distance is only with regard to secondary data for parameters as specifically mentioned at the said column and same has been complied.
“We are, thus of the view that it is not a case where the project compromises with the environment, as claimed by the appellants. At the same time further safeguards for environment protection need to be incorporated,” it said.
Observing that there would be major air pollution during construction phase and post it, NGT proposed some mitigation measures.
“It would be appropriate if the project proponent establishes real time online continuous Air Quality Monitoring Station also which is connected to CPCB server and capable of monitoring all relevant and critical parameters and mitigation measures taken. At least 3 (three) more locations falling in the State of Maharashtra be also monitored and documented,” the order states.
NGT further said that only two rain water harvesting pits have been provided which are not adequate and there is need to place other pits at such locations so as to capture all the excess drainage for water re-charge. “More frequent water quality monitoring i.e. once every month may be carried out by project proponent at bore wells and STP discharge plants instead of 4 (four) times in a year as proposed,” it said.
As regards the noise environment it has been proposed that ambient noise levels shall be monitored around the premises of the airport, near DG sets and at main entrance/boundary of airport once a week at seven locations which NGT feels are inadequate.
“Besides these, continuous monitoring of occupational noise exposure limits in such industrial environments would be appropriate with audible or visual alarm output capability. Integrated Noise Model (INM) be more frequently used and mitigation undertaken during the operational phase of project at regular intervals,” it states.
There is a potential for impact on soil quality due to project related spills and leaks of fuel and chemicals and uncontrolled disposal of wastes and waste water. “Adequate care be taken to avoid spills and leaks of hazardous substances and all project related wastes. Littering on sites and beyond the sites needs to be adequately prevented and controlled,” the order said, adding “Debris and Muck Management Plan to be prepared and implemented so as to avoid spillage of muck and debris on the slopes.”
NGT said efforts be made to transplant trees to other locations in the same vicinity by using appropriate mechanical devices which are available these days.
“Efforts be made to plant indigenous species which are tall in size rather than small saplings. Concerns have been raised by appellants with regard to plant species ‘Dipcadi concanense’ which has been claimed to be a threatened plant. This claim of the appellants has been negated by the respondent by producing a documentation of Botanical Survey of India, Western Regional Centre, Pune, Maharashtra titled as ‘A Note on Occurrence and Distribution of Dipcadi concanense’. By invoking Precautionary Principle, we direct the project proponent to draw up a Conservancy by Plan/Scheme for ‘Dipcadi concanense’ in collaboration with Forest Department, State of Goa and Botanical Survey of India and ensure its implementation,” the order says.
Adequate drills with respect to implementation of disaster management plan needs to be carried out at regular intervals so as to ensure preparedness and rapid response to any disasters both man made or natural, the NGT said. “The above requirements will be treated as additional conditions of Environmental Clearance,” the order states. [H]