A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on the economy of Gujarat, that was tabled in the Gujarat assembly on March 28, found that thee Gujarat government allowed Adani Power Limited (APL) to lay transmission lines in the forest land before it obtained prior permissions under Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, and Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.

Special Correspondent

The CAG report revealed shocking details about how APL laid out Mundra-Dehgam power transmission line before obtaining the necessary permissions, and while doing so, APL along with two other government agencies did not even implement the mitigation measures to prevent electrocution of birds due to high voltage transmission lines.

In January 2009, the APL had applied for diversion of 58.968 hectare land of Wild Ass Sanctuary (WAS), Dharangadhra, one of the protected area in Gujarat, for laying Mundra-Dehgam power transmission line. Despite getting any clearances for the project, APL began its work within two months in March 2009. However, when the Forest and Environment Department noticed that the transmission lines were being laid there, APL was asked to stop the work in the same month.

Later in May 2009, APL was granted in-principle approval by the Union ministry of Environment and Forests for this project. Subsequently, in September 2010, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) issued the permission for the same. However, 13 months before it was granted complete permission for the project, auditors found that the APL had commissioned laying transmission lines in July 2009, which was in violation of WPA and FCA regulations.

Interestingly, in May 2015, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had asked Gujarat’s Forest and Environment Department to look into such cases where forestland had been used for non-forest purposes without obtaining necessary permissions. Though the ministry asked to send draft complaints in such matters within a month, the Gujarat government did not initiate any actions in this matter, even after a lapse of two years, as of May 2017 (at the time when the audit was perusing the records).

The audit report further pointed out that the high voltage power transmission lines laid by Gujarat Energy Transmission Company Ltd (GETCO), Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) and along with APL, did not even implement the mitigation measures as prescribed by MoEF. These transmission lines pass through the ecological sensitive - Little Rann of Kutch, which is a nesting ground for flamingos and WAS. Though the birds are prone to collide and get electrocuted with transmission lines, these agencies did not even adhere to mitigation measures such as using insulated conductors to prevent electrocution of birds, installation of bird reflectors on wires or conductors on the high voltage transmission lines.

Between February 2008 and August 2016, National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had approved 44 proposals to undertake permitted activities in various protected areas in Gujarat. Of these projects, the CAG scrutiny found that the Gujarat government did not recover the Net Present Value (NPV) of Rs 38.98 crore from eight user agencies including Rs 3.24 crore from APL. Further, it is revealed that five percent of the project cost was also not recovered from seven user agencies.

While the nexus between Adani Group and the Gujarat government under Narendra Modi was well established, this CAG report had further revealed Adani’s high-handedness in Gujarat.