Tribunal mandates Radiation studies before granting ‘environment clearance’ to thermal power plants
EAC failed to consider impact due to radiation; ‘Terms of Reference’ for all projects to include impact due to radiation
The National Green Tribunal in the judgment dated 20.09.2011 issued directions to the Ministry of Environment & Forests to conduct a scientific study with regard to the long term
impacts of nuclear radiation caused by the thermal power plants. The directions were issued by the NGT Bench comprising Justice C.Venkata Ramulu and Dr. Devendra Kumar Agrawal on hearing the appeal [Appeal No. 7/2011(T)] filed by the residents of the Koradi village against the ‘Environment Clearance’ granted to the Maharashtra State Power Generation Co. Ltd for expansion of 3x660 MW coal based thermal power plant at Koradi in Nagpur district of Maharashtra. [Case : Krishi Vigyan Arogya Sanstha & Ors Vs Ministry of Environment & Forests & Ors]
Observations made by the Tribunal
The Tribunal observed that while granting environment clearance to the project, the following aspects were not considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee/Ministry of Environment and Forests:
Impact of nuclear radiation caused by thermal power plant on human habitation and ecology of the area
Cumulative impact of various existing and proposed thermal power plants in and around the project area
The Tribunal observed that the issue with regard to effect of nuclear radiation on human population and ecology in and around the area was raised in the public hearing but the same was neither examined nor incorporated in the final Environment Impact Assessment report.
The Tribunal relied on various research publications on Radioactivity submitted by the appellants, which highlighted the fact that the waste produced by the coal plants is more radioactive than that generated by the nuclear power plants which can result into severe environment and human health problems.
Directions issued to the Ministry of Environment & Forests
The Tribunal issued the following directions to the Ministry of Environment & Forests and disposed of the appeal with liberty to the Appellants to take appropriate steps if the same are not complied with:
I. Long term study with regard to the impacts of Nuclear radiation:
To conduct a long term study of the impacts caused by nuclear radiation from the thermal power projects by involving Bhabha Atomic Research Agency or any such other recognized institution dealing with nuclear radiation with reference to the coal ash generated by the thermal power project particularly the cumulative effect of a number of thermal power projects located in the area on human habitation, environment and ecology and to also consider the health profile of the residents within the area in which the pollutants are expected to spread from the thermal power project.
II Radiation studies to be a mandatory part of the Terms of Reference:
To include in the Terms of Reference of all the future projects asking the proponent to furnish details of possible nuclear radioactivity levels of the coal proposed to be used for the thermal power plant.
II. National Standards to be prescribed from the Department of Atomic Energy:
To get the national standards prescribed from the Department of Atomic Energy, Govt. of India within a period of one year from the date of receipt of this order, as to the permissible levels of nuclear radiation in residential, industrial and ecologically sensitive areas of the country.
Considering the above, the Tribunal also took note that the grant of Environment Clearance is basically a procedural law and any procedural lapses such as collection and evaluation of basic data which may lead to threat to the environment, ecology and conservation of natural resources, shall have to be taken seriously by the Tribunal while dealing with the disputes coming before it. It further stated that the Expert Appraisal Committee/ Ministry of Environment and Forests should consider even small deficiencies in the Environment Impact Assessment report which should be rectified by the project proponent.
Article appeared in the eRc Journal Vol V, Issue 1, January – May 2012