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The Gujarat High Court Monday gave a conditional go-ahead to detergent maker Nirma for construction of its Rs.1,400 crore cement plant at Mahua near Bhavnagar which has been opposed by farmers citing environmental concerns.

A division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi directed Nirma Limited to return another 46 hectares of land, which constitutes a water body, to the state government.

The company has already returned 54 hectares out of 100 hectares of the disputed land which constitutes the water body.

The court’s order came on a petition filed by Shree Mahuva Khetiwadi Pariyavaran Bandhara Bachao Samiti which is spearheading the agitation against the plant.

The court also made it clear to the company that the 46 hectares of land to be returned would exclude the canals through which the water will go in ‘bandhara’ (a check dam) and the company shall not use this water for its cement plant.

The company was also told to ensure that the ‘bandhara’ water is not polluted due to the cement plant.

The petitioners’ contention was that 222 hectares of land out of the 268 hectare allotted to the company by the state government belongs to a water-body.

The petitioners also produced satellite images, obtained from National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad, showing water bodies near Samadhiyada village where Nirma’s cement plant is coming up.

On March 16, the high court had ordered a stay on the construction of the plant.

On April 1, the company agreed to return 46 hectares of land. However, the samiti refused to relent.

Counsel for the petitioners, Anand Yagnik earlier pleaded before the division bench for a stay on the judgement while they file an appeal in the Supreme Court. However, the court rejected the plea.

Mr Yagnik told reporters later he proposes to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

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