Shimla: In a major win for the environmentalist groups and NGOs in Himachal Pradesh, the green bench of Himachal Pradesh High Court today quashed the environmental clearance granted to Harish Cements Limited for it’s proposed cement plant near Sundernagar.
The bench of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice Deepak Gupta said that the central government had committed illegality by waiving off a public hearing -ahead of the grant of environmental clearance in 2005 at the request of the then chief minister Virbhadra Singh. The bench also struck down a 2009 notification issued by the state government for acquiring land for the cement unit in Mandi district.
The bench observed that a public hearing is a very important component of such project which affects the life of citizens of the state. The state should make endeavour to protect the environment and ecology of the area, more particularly where a cement plant is to be established.
The bench further said that the central ministry has acted only on the request of the chief minister and has not taken an independent decision based on facts. Such practice is forbidden and not authorised by law.
The order came as six petitions were filed against the project was being permitted in violation of the environmental laws. The petitioners alleged that the cement plant was being set up within 500 metres of the Bandli Wildlife Sanctuary.
The environment clearance was given to the company by the union ministry of environment and forests, A Raja, on the recommendation of the then chief minister Virbhadra Singh in 2005 without any mandatory public hearing.