AHMEDABAD: Steel tycoon L N Mittal backed steel manufacturing project at Hazira in Gujarat is facing a legal issue. The Gujarat high court recently issued a notice to the Hazira-based steel company after a PIL was filed by Biran Padhya, a wildlife activist, over the alleged non-compliance of an order issued by the Union environment ministry eight years ago.
“The writ-applicant, an NRI, has brought to our notice that certain mandatory conditions, which ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AM/NS) India was obliged to fulfill as imposed in the order passed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest dated June 8, 2013, have not been complied with or rather flouted,” the court said in an oral order passed on February 22 while listing out the conditions imposed by the ministry.
The company, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AM/NS) India Ltd, is a joint venture between ArcelorMittal and Japan-based Nippon Steel Corporation. It owns the integrated Hazira steel facility of the erstwhile Essar Steel. It has been contended that, among other conditions, the company has failed to provide 110 hectares of non-forest land in the Lion Corridor area in Sananda village in Palitana taluka. The non-forest land, to be notified as Reserved Forest by the state forest department, is still pending, according to the petition.
As a CSR initiative, AM/NS India was required to deposit 2.5 times of the market value prevailing in 2006 for the area with Lion Conservation Society, according to the court order. The court has sent notices to all the respondents and they have been given time till March 16 to respond.
For the Hazira steel plant, the state forest department allotted three land parcels measuring about 85 hectares. For this, in-principle approvals were given in the years 2013, 2014, and 2015.
In return, the company was to acquire three land parcels besides following other mandatory conditions laid down by the ministry in 2013 for diverting forest land.
As the conditions laid down while granting the in-principle approval for diverting forest land have not been fulfilled, the allocation of these land parcels should be cancelled, the petition said.
“Even the land promised by AM/NS India under the Compensatory Afforestation Scheme is not yet given to the forest department, which is itself a ground for cancellation of the forest land already allocated,” the petition said. “In the instant case the respondents have turned a blind eye to the said fact and no action is taken and/or even explanation is sought from the user agency.”
According to Rules of Forest Conservation Act, if compliance is not done in five years, then the permission for allotment of such land is to be revoked, the petition added. The petitioner stated that to the best of his knowledge, AM/ NS was looking to acquire additional forest land without following due process of law in the first place.
AM/NS India acquired the Hazira steel plant in the insolvency process in November 2019.