In a major blow to the government’s move on mega cement plants, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday quashed environmental clearance granted to a cement plant near Sundernagar in Mandi district. It also set aside the land acquisition proceedings under way at the site, which was approved by the then government in 2005. Local farmers were opposing the land acquisitions.
Harish Cement India, a unit of Grasim Cements, was first approved in 1995 by the Congress government, but it could not come up. After returning to power, the Congress save approval to it again in 2005 despite strong opposition from environmental groups, including Chipko Movement leader Sunderlal Bahuguna and locals, as the plant was barely 5.65km away from the Bandli wildlife sanctuary.
The orders were passed on Monday by the High Court’s Green Bench, which disposed of six separate petitions filed by the affected locals, who had raised serious environmental concerns and also questioned the manner in which the government cleared the plant close to a wildlife sanctuary. The mandatory provision under the Environment Protection Act 1986 to hold an open public hearing before granting approvals was allegedly not followed.