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HC notice to Gujarat PCB over Dholera project NOC

Our Bureau

AHMEDABAD, Aug. 7

A DIVISION Bench of the Gujarat High Court has issued notice to the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) Chairman, Mr K.V. Bhanujan, and others for undue delay in giving a no-objection certificate to Dholera Port Ltd (DPL), which resulted in cost escalation of the project by Rs 140 crore. The notice is returnable on August 26.

Mr Krishnakant Vakharia, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the highest authorities in GPCB should be personally held responsible and accountable for "the deliberate delay with ulterior motives, mala fide intentions and gross negligence'' in issuing NOC for the Rs 1,400-crore mega port project in the backward Bhal region of Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar districts.

Citing a judgment of the Supreme Court in a similar case, Mr Vakharia contended that time was the most crucial factor in such large projects and wilful negligence on the part of officers should be taken seriously. The DPL, a JK group company, had submitted the application for NOC to GPCB way back on January 2, 2001, but it remained pending till December 27, 2001. The NOC was received, but after a lapse of one full year on January 3, 2002, against what should normally have been a three-month lag.

The company had got the letter of intent (LI) from Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) in September 1998 for the development of multi-cargo, all-weather Dholera Port in the Gulf of Cambay. It was one of the five greenfield sites to be developed by private promoters as per Gujarat's port policy of 1995.

The one-year delay in the granting of the NOC has cost the company Rs 140 crore at the rate of 10 per cent cost escalation. The delay had also cost the company a six-km long, 65 metre wide sea front due to soil erosion, the complainant said. The DPL had prepared the Detailed Project Report by Frederic R Harris BV of the Netherlands and the marine and terrestrial environmental impact assessment studies by National Institute of Oceanography and Tata AIG Risk Management Services.

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