A study that analysed the economic impact of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) of India in five specific cases during the 2018-21 period – including a ban on iron ore mining in Goa and the closure of a copper plant of Sterlite Industries in Tamil Nadu – suggests the government lost about ₹8,000 crore in revenues, industry another ₹15,000 crore, apart from 16,000 job losses, and an adverse impact on another 75,000 persons.
The ‘synthesis report’, prepared by Jaipur-based Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) with financial support from government think tank NITI Aayog, found that if the projects had taken off without any delay, and the government utilised the ₹8,000 crore revenues as capital expenditure, it would have added another ₹20,000 crore to the economy.
The study, which attempted to understand the first-order direct economic impact of the select judicial decisions of the SC and NGT on the economy and stakeholders, covered The Goa Foundation vs. Sesa Sterlite Ltd. & Ors. (Goa Mining Case), the Hanuman Laxman Aroskar vs. Union of India (Mopa Airport Case), the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board vs. Sterlite Industries (I) Ltd (Sterlite Copper Plant Case), the National Green Tribunal Bar Association vs. Ministry of Environment & Forests and Ors. (Sand Mining Case) and the Vardhman Kaushik vs. Union of India & Ors. (NCR Construction Ban Case).
The report says its consolidated findings are constrained by the limited data availability of the covered cases as enough data was available only in the case of Goa iron ore and Sterlite Copper plant cases. It concluded that when both these orders were in force, the economic impact owing to the inability of relevant governments to make capital expenditure is estimated to be around ₹18 crore per day. During this period, the impact on the industry was estimated to be around ₹13 crore per day. Around 75,000 persons were adversely impacted during this period.
The authors qualified the study as a purely academic exercise and stated that it “is nowhere intended to interfere with the decision-making process of the judiciary”. Explaining the methodology adopted to conduct the study, CUTS says it followed a mixed research method with an evidence-based and bottom-up approach using primary and secondary data. “An extensive review of existing literature related to the respective cases was conducted, followed by field visits and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders who might have been impacted. Specific focus was accorded to understanding the impact of decisions on revenues of industry, state/ government, employment, and salaries of workers. The understanding of the impact on different stakeholders was utilised to ascertain the impact on the economy,” it says.