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AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday asked the Adani group to stop construction work at its special economic zone in Mundra until environment clearance is obtained from the Centre. The order that came in response to a public interest litigation filed by villagers also asked Alstom Bharat Forge Power Ltd to discontinue ongoing construction within the SEZ. Adanis have been facing environmental issues for their SEZ project and in 2008, the Supreme Court had halted construction activity at the project. The case was later transferred to Gujarat High Court and the group is yet to get the environmental clearance.

"When the SEZ's environment clearance is still pending, how did they start construction?" asked Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharjee and Justice J B Pardiwala of Gujarat High Court.

Villagers from Navinal in Mundra Taluka of Kutch district said in the petition that the 18,000 hectare project would have environmental impact on 14 villages.

"The SEZ has not obtained prior environment clearance and therefore, Adani group or any other company has been asked to stop construction activity," said Anand Yagnik, lawyer of the petitioners. Yagnik said, while Alstom Bharat Forge was building its unit in the SEZ, the Adanis were developing infrastructure like building roads, railway line and erecting electricity poles. "They will now have to stop all construction work after this order," he said. A statement by the Adani group said Alstom Bharat Forge does not require any environmental clearance, but cannot construct till Mundra SEZ receives one. "This has no impact on ongoing port operations and port development activities at Mundra for which the company has requisite environmental clearance," the statement read. The company did not comment on the status of construction activities.

Earlier, a group of fishermen produced several pictures and maps claiming that Adani Group is filling creeks to develop its proposed special economic zone. However, Adani Group had contested the charges of filling Kotadi and Baradi Mata creeks.