Sucheta Dalal :Activist calls for legal action against Vedanta miners
Sucheta Dalal

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Activist calls for legal action against Vedanta, miners   

March 23, 2010

Environmental activist Biswajit Mohanty is planning to initiate legal action against the Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta group for allegedly violating environmental clearances given to its aluminium plant in Orissa. He had also written to the ministry of environment and forests on the issue earlier.


Apart from the Vedanta group, the activist also plans to initiate legal action against illegal mining in two districts in Orissa.


“We will take legal action on the basis that the environmental regulations are being violated and hence the same should be withdrawn, and operations should be suspended,” said Biswajit Mohanty, general secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa.


Last month, Mr Mohanty had written to Jairam Ramesh, Union minister for environment and forests, alleging that Vedanta was flouting the conditions in its clearance letter by buying bauxite ore elsewhere and then carting it to its refinery on trucks, which is causing air pollution in that area.


PTI news reports have also quoted Mr Ramesh as stating that a ministerial expert committee that had gone into various mining projects in Orissa found violations of various permissions by Vedanta at its Niyamgiri Hills mining site.  


A three-member team of the ministry submitted its report to the government, saying that it had found evidence of violations of green norms at the company’s bauxite project in the Kalahandi district of Orissa. However, Mr Mohanty has not received any direct reply to his letter to the ministry.


“The government should not have allowed the refinery to operate for the past two-and-a-half years. They are causing a huge environmental problem due to the trucks (which are plying), as they are sourcing bauxite from Korba in Chhattisgarh, which is illegal. Around 40,000 trucks ply on this route every year,” Mr Mohanty added.


Alleging that the companies involved in mining are taking out more ore than permitted, Mr Mohanty said that there is a “mining scam” going on in Orissa, which could be bigger than the one in Andhra Pradesh. He said that he is planning to take action against 40 mines in Sundargarh and Keonjhar districts in Orissa.


These mines are mainly iron ore mines and some are of chromate and bauxite. These are mines used by some of the large steel companies and business groups, including a state-run company.


“Every mine is given a cap on the amount of ore that they produce, but the production is much in excess than the one allowed as per the Pollution Act. This has been happening since many years, but the regulatory authority woke up to it only four to five years back. However, action still needs to be taken,” explained Mr Mohanty.


Mr Mohanty claims that many of these mines neither have environmental clearances nor have they have applied for it. “These were mines allotted many years back. If the companies operating these mines wished to exceed the capacity, they should have approached the concerned authority for an increase in the cap,” he added. — Amritha Pillay

-- Sucheta Dalal