Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oswal Agro Mills Ltd for construction and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to state whether it gave clearance for the construction of a high-rise next to a refinery of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) in Mahul after considering a report by the intelligence bureau (IB) on threats to refineries in the area.
The judges also directed the MoEF to state whether it considered the issue of emission of carcinogenic fumes and gases from the refinery. The judges threatened to summon to MoEF secretary if the ministry does not clarify its queries on December 12.
A division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Mridula Bhatkar was hearing a petition filed by HPCL challenging sanctions given to Oswal Agro Mills Ltd for construction on land next to the refinery. Bharat Petroleum also has a refinery there. The land, which was once owned by the erstwhile Union Carbide Ltd, was sold to the Oswal group.
HPCL had purchased a 35-acre plot adjacent to its existing refinery from Calico Mills for expansion. On June 7, 2006, the joint director of industries granted permission to the Oswal group to change the plot’s reservation from industrial to residential. On October 10, 2011, the high court ordered a stay on construction at Oswal’s plot.
On Monday, Oswal’s counsel argued that the stay was obtained without hearing the group. HPCL’s counsel Fredun Devitre said the concerned authorities were specifically informed about the emission of carcinogenic fumes from the refinery and its harmful effects. Established in 1952, the refinery is spread over 416 acre and the area was then a special industrial zone, said Devitre. “Now people are ready to stay in graveyards also,” Justice Majmudar remarked.
MoEF’s advocate Rajiv Chavan, in reply to the judges’ query, submitted that international standards do not permit construction within 2 km of a refinery. “We granted clearance on the condition that the developer would obtain necessary permissions from the fire department,” he added.
Advocates Ashutosh Kumbhkoni and Priti Purandare, appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, told the court that the civic body had granted permission for construction up to three floors in keeping with the development control regulations. They said commencement certificate was yet to be issued to Oswal and the BMC is awaiting a reply from the state government on its letter seeking to know how much further the construction be allowed.

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