The National Green Tribunal has refused to quash the environmental clearance given to Adani Group's Vizhinjam International Seaport in Kovalam, Kerala, in a rebuttal to concerted efforts by vested interests to stall the project.
A bench comprising NGT chairman justice Swatanter Kumar and justice RS Rathore, however, constituted a seven-member expert committee to look into compliance of conditions of environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance.
The green panel, while disposing of the pleas seeking withdrawal of environment clearance given to the venture, also directed the project proponent Adani Group to maintain fisheries harbour on the port for welfare of local fishermen.
The green tribunal's verdict comes on appeal filed by Wilfred J and V Maryadasan alleging that the port was being constructed in an ecologically sensitive coastal zone and seeking a direction banning all activities that would damage coastal areas, including Vizhinjam coast.
The five-member panel was hearing the matter since February this year after the Supreme Court paved the way for resumption of hearing.
However, in the meantime, one of the expert members retired.
The green panel had, on 29 August reserved its judgment after the ministry of environment and forests and other parties, including Adani, agreed that remaining four members could pronounce the judgment and they had no objection.
The tribunal's refusal to quash the clearance has cleared the way for the port construction, media report said.
The Rs6,000-crore port project is being developed by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ), India's largest port developer and the logistics arm of Adani Group.
The Supreme Court had asked the tribunal to rule on the matter in a time-bound manner as the apex court will be hearing a similar plea for the cancellation of the environmental clearances, media reported.
The port project got environmental and CRZ clearance on 3 January 2014, but activists have been trying to stall the project claiming the area was once protected under a 1991 notification.