T. Muruganandam v. Ministry of Environment & Forests, Appeal No. 50/2012 (10 November 2014)
National Green Tribunal
In an earlier decision issued in 2012, the National Green Tribunal stayed the environmental clearance issued to a power company (IL&FS) for construction of a coal-fired power plant on the ground that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) lacked a cumulative impact analysis. IL&FS completed a “rapid” cumulative impact assessment within two weeks of the Tribunal’s decision and submitted it to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for review. The Ministry, on the Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EAC) recommendation, determined that the cumulative impact study appeared adequate and recommended continuation of the project, subject to additional conditions.
The Tribunal explained the concept of cumulative impact assessment, noting it is “not the impact of any project in isolation but it is a total impact resulting from the interaction of the project with other project activities around it- past, present and those to come up in future. It is a comprehensive view of the impacts resulting from all the projects- past, present or planned ones on the environment. Cumulative Impact may be same or different and those arising out of individual activities and tend to be larger, long lasting and spread over a greater area within the individual impact.” Para. 41. The Tribunal described the many flaws with the rapid cumulative impact assessment, including the exclusion of many existing industries, a failure to model the combined impact of future projects, reference to outdated air quality standards, and missing data. Paras. 45-51. It also found that the Expert Appraisal Committee failed to apply its mind when it reviewed the study. Para. 63.
The Tribunal directed IL&FS to conduct a new cumulative impact study in accordance with parameters outlined in the decision. See Order, para. 2.