Following a complaint from residents of Mandvi taluka of Kutch district, who oppose Gujarat Heavy’s proposed soda ash plant Chemicals Ltd (GHCL) near the village of Bada, the National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET), a member of the Quality Council of India, has disqualified the reputed National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) from conducting studies of environmental impact assessment (EIA) for soda ash projects for six months. It also banned NEERI from applying for accreditation for the caustic soda sector for six months.NABET’s sanction order for NEERI was issued on December 23.
At a public hearing on the project in October last year, Bada Village Vikas Samiti opposed the project, saying the EIA report was invalid because the study was undertaken by consultants who did not have NABET accreditation.
Upon learning of the complaint, NABET opined that “NEERI violated the terms and conditions of their accreditation and took a very flippant approach in accepting an EIA for a sector (soda ash) for which it was not accredited. Consequently, NEERI is excluded from applying for accreditation for this sector for six months from December 23, 2022.”
The NABET accreditation committee observed that GHCL was to set up a soda ash plant in Kutch in 2017, but there was no NABET-accredited EIA consultant for the soda ash sector. GHCL, therefore, approached CSIR-NEERI, which agreed to conduct an EIA study. NEERI was not accredited to conduct an EIA study for the soda ash sector and did not apply for accreditation during this period, which is a requirement under the 2015 notification from the Ministry of EU environment.
Given the order, clouds seem to hang over GHCL’s Rs 3,500 crore investment in the proposed 5 lakh tonnes per year soda ash plant.
Sources said GHCL is expected to start construction of the plant in the first quarter of fiscal 2023-24 and is awaiting environmental clearance and Coastal Regulatory Area clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment. Now, his plea will remain suspended until June 22.
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