The National Green Tribunal has sought response of the Centre, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments as well as several industries, including Essar and Hindalco, on a plea opposing new power projects in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts due to environment concerns.
A bench headed by Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Centre, state governments and several industries, including the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project - an upcoming 3,960 MW coal based power plant of Reliance Power, and sought their replies by October 7.
Alleging that pollution and serious ailments are being caused due to coal mining as well as emissions of thermal power stations there, the petition has opposed grant of sanction for any new project or for expansion of existing units till an action plan for improving environmental quality of the areas is implemented.
The petition, by Supreme Court lawyer Ashwani Kumar Dubey, also raises the issue of alleged felling of trees by Mahan Coal, a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco Industries, without obtaining requisite forest clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
In support of his contention, Dubey has referred to a 2010 letter written by the then Environment minister Jairam Ramesh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that the proposal to grant stage-I clearance to Mahan coal block of Essar and Hindalco is under consideration as the mine is in an area which is a 'no go zone' having "good biodiversity".
Ramesh had also said in his letter that a forest advisory committee (FAC) is considering Essar's proposal for clearance and has decided to send an expert team to assess the impact of the project as it is a "sensitive case", the petition said.
The petition said that a sub-committee of the FAC on the basis of inspection of the Mahan coal block area had observed that permission to divert forest land to Essar be withheld.
Essar had sought forest clearance for its 1200 MW thermal power project in Singrauli which would obtain coal from the Mahan coal block, the petition, filed through advocates M Z Chaudhary and Avinash Prasad, said.