Lafarge plant in Himachal Pradesh lands in trouble
Lafarge project has landed in trouble in Himachal Pradesh for environmental clearance. The said project is a 3 million tonne per annum cement and 2 million tonne per annum clinker plant along with a captive limestone mine of 3 million tonne per annum in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, which the French company intends to set up. In June 2009, the company got environmental clearance for the project. But the company, which has faced similar problems in Meghalaya, was taken to court. A petitioner from an affected village filed a case before the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) against the plant. Among other things, the petition alleged that the plant was coming up within 10 km of a wildlife sanctuary. Such proximity is not allowed without the permission of the National Wildlife Board, which Lafarge had not sought. The NEAA cancelled the clearance given to the project after a site visit. Lafarge then went to the Himachal Pradesh High Court pleading against cancellation of the environmental clearance. In the HC, the petitioners claimed that Lafarge hid the fact that its proposed cement plant was close to a wildlife sanctuary, which was later affirmed by the state forest department as well as the statutory Forest Advisory Committee of the Union environment ministry and finally by the appellate authority. The Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary fell within 5 km of the plant site, NEAA had concluded. The appellate authority, while cancelling the green clearance to the cement plant, had noted that the land was cultivable and that there had been near total opposition to the project from the affected villagers. NEAA had said the villagers were against the location of the plant near their land as it would impact their agriculture, horticulture and livestock.