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NOC granted to power plant quashed

Staff Reporter


MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday quashed the no-objection certificate issued to a Hyderabad-based firm for setting up a Rs.185.40-crore thermal power plant at Kalugoorani in Ramanathapuram district.

The Member-Secretary, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, had issued the NOC on June 28. Allowing two public interest litigations, a Division Bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice S. Sardar Zackria Hussain directed the TNPCB and the District Collector to conduct a public hearing afresh. The Bench said the Centre amended the Environment Impact Assessment Notification in 1994 making it mandatory to conduct public hearing on projects involving huge investment. The State Government issued an order, in 1997, constituting public hearing panels in all districts. The panel should comprise District Environmental Engineer, Collector, the Deputy Secretary or Under Secretary, Environment and Forest Department, and the Director of Environment, and five others, including the MLA and panchayat president. But, in the public hearing held on March 15, 2005, "the Director of Environment and Deputy Secretary to the Government... were absent... ," the Bench said.

But the TNPCB contended that the decision taken in the meeting could not be faulted just because of the absence of two persons. Refusing it, theBench, said: "(Their) absence cannot be viewed lightly considering the nature of the project and the importance of safety of persons residing in and around the project."

A perusal of the file produced by the pollution control board also shows that villagers, during public hearing, protested against the project and hence the meeting was terminated abruptly, the Bench added. "It was not clear whether objections raised by the public were duly considered."

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