Express News Service

CHENNAI: The southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered demolition of edible oil tanks and storage transit terminal in Tondiarpet and Thiruvottiyur for violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. These facilities are owned and operated by KTV Oil Mills Pvt Ltd and KTV Health Food Pvt Ltd, which manufacture popular edible oil brands like Sunland sunflower oil and Roobini palm oil.

While setting aside the CRZ clearances granted, the NGT bench comprising judicial member Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta ordered the oil firm to remove the structures constructed, within three months. The bench also directed TN Coastal Zone Management Authority to remove the structures and recover the cost from the violator, if they did not comply with the order.

The tribunal has also imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh on KTV Health Food Pvt Ltd, under “polluter pays” principle. The firm was asked to deposit the money with the State Pollution Control Board within two months.

The order was passed following a petition filed by Meenava Thanthai Nala Sangam, challenging the clearances. The main contentions raised in the appeal was that the firm commenced operations without getting the mandatory prior CRZ clearance. Later, it obtained ex-post facto clearance which was not permissible under CRZ Notification, 2011 and these projects can be established only “in notified port”.

During the arguments,  counsel for KTV, Union Environment Ministry and TNCZMA argued that ex-post facto clearance was permissible and storage of edible oil, which is non-hazardous, was a permissible activity, and as such, the clearance granted was legal. The firm had also laid an underground pipeline measuring about 5 km, for transfer of edible oil from Chennai port to storage terminal tank.

However, the petitioner’s counsel argued that as per CRZ Notification, storage of non-hazardous cargo such as edible oil, and fertilizers, can be established only in notified port, and as per KTV’s own submission, the terminal was about 5.3 km from the city port jetty.

After hearing both sides, the tribunal concluded that the activity was not a permissible activity within the CRZ-2 zone as it has to be established beyond the port area. Even assuming that the amended notification of 2018 can be made applicable for granting ex-post facto clearance, if such application were filed within the specified time mentioned therein, the bench ruled that even then it cannot be treated as a category permissible activity falling under that notification.

“So under such circumstances, the authorities were not justified in considering the application and granting ex-post facto clearance to an activity which is not permissible and the same is unsustainable in law and hence, the clearance is liable to be set aside,” the tribunal said in its order.

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