CSE volunteer barred from filming public hearing for Ultratech cement plant


Author(s):
Soundaram Ramanathan
Issue Date:
2013-5-23

He was detained and his cassette was snatched away at company’s behest

The public hearing for the first phase of Ultratech’s proposed cement plant in Tamil Nadu on Thursday appeared to be a stage-managed event. Officials and police at the event did not allow a volunteer from Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Senthil, to film the proceedings. He was detained at the venue and his cassette was snatched away.

The public hearing was for the proposed integrated greenfield cement project of UltraTech Cement. The project will include a facility for the production of clinker, cement (of 5.5 million tonnes per annum production capacity) and a captive power plant capable of producing 75MW power. The project is planned in two phases at Vellianai in Karur district and D Gudalur in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu.

Site of the proposed cement plant

 

Explanations ignored

Members of the press present at the venue of the public hearing were permitted to take photographs. However, the CSE volunteer was stopped from filming by an officer of the state pollution control board (SPCB), who refused to disclose his name. The volunteer was asked for his credentials and was told that permission from higher officials was required before he could film the hearing.

The volunteer explained that the video was being made as part of the project of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The project, Green Clearance Watch http://www.greenclearancewatch.org/ [1], is a public information system to track environmental and forest clearances given to industrial and development projects in key sectors from April 2007 onwards. Part of its work involves the documenting public hearings.

The volunteer’s explanations were completely ignored, and the assistant engineer of the SPCB called in the police. Company officials instructed the state government officials at the venue not to allow him to leave until he surrendered the recorded cassette, says the volunteer. The cassette was then snatched away.

A public hearing is usually organised by the respective SPCB, and includes representatives of the company pursuing the project, residents of the affected areas and others who may wish to attend. The hearing takes place in the presence of the district collector.

Law allows video-recording

According to the EIA notification, a public hearing needs to be recorded by an SPCB and the video has to be sent to MoEF. Activists and communities allege that these videos are often tampered with. There is nothing in the EIA notification that bars a person from video recording during the public hearing as it is a public event.
Pravin Patel, an activist from Chhattisgarh says, “The friend who has been threatened and obstructed in his work should report the matter to the MoEF as well as to the member secretary of the SPCB and file his objections for not granting the environmental clearance. The public hearing that was conducted is unfair where voices of the people have not been heard in a stage-managed show in the name of public hearing.”

Show of power

According to the CSE volunteer, several MLAs and local goons were assembled at the venue. People were made to register themselves before the hearing, and were called by name to state their concerns regarding the project, he says.

“The company served people biryani at the public hearing venue,” says the CSE volunteer. “People were asked  about potential issues with water, air and rehabilitation because of the plant. Officials just kept replying: “The project is good. The project will not cause any issues and the environment would improve,” he says.

The volunteer was on his way out, but was then detained by police and made to sit through the proceedings of the hearing. He was assured that he would be allowed to leave in a while. After the hearing was over, he was further detained by officials who noted his details, as well as those of the CSE researchers who had sent him to the venue.

S Kowsalya, resident of Dindigul, rues the lack of documentation of the company’s assurances. “Industries are not willing to be accountable.  The area is already water starved. We get water only once in 15 days and rivers in the area have dried. We don’t get labourers for agricultural land as there are several polluting spinning mills and leather industries around the district which give people a higher salary. Now this upcoming plant will add to the list of struggles in our daily life,” she says.


 

Odisha – (MOEF) Roy Paul Committee Report Reveals More Illegalities, Exposes POSCO’s Destructive Potential


POSCO

 

At a time when our people are facing bombs, lathis and violence in order to defend their basic rights to their homes, lands and livelihoods, yet another official committee has confirmed that the POSCO project is being pushed through without a thought for the welfare of the people of the area or of this country.

 

On October 22nd 2012, the second official review committee to be constituted on the POSCO project – constituted in May 2012  (this time, on the directions of the National Green Tribunal on March 31, 2012) submitted its report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). This report has not yet been made public but has been obtained by an Right to Information (RTI) request.

 

The POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) wishes to bring the following key points from the report to the attention of the public in this regard:

 

·        The Odisha government and POSCO are lying when they say they have decided to reduce the project size to 2700 acres and “leave out” most of the private and forest lands in the villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur. Till date their plant layout lists the plant’s substation, water supply facilities, main office for phase I, two gates, etc. in the land that they supposedly do not want. The committee has asked POSCO to submit a revised layout and also unambiguously state that this will not affect their expansion plans.

 

·        The Committee notes that – eight years after signing an MoU to start the project - the government and POSCO have yet to carry out the following basic studies:

 

‣      Assessing how much water is actually available in the area and whether this area can support such a huge plant;

 

‣      Impacts on fisheries, which support more than 20,000 people in the area;

 

‣      A plan for management of oil spills;

 

‣      Impact of dredging of material for the private port;

 

‣      Impact on marine ecology and wildlife from the plant;

 

‣      Critical long term study for captive port

 

·        The Committee also says that therefore the project needs to submit a fresh Environment Impact Assessment report for its revised layout. Hence, the entire process effectively has to start again.

 

·        The Committee has also clearly said that expansion of any project in the area (not just POSCO) should be considered only after a carrying capacity study.

 

In short, as per the findings of the Roy Paul committee, this project has never been studied properly and could – in other words – pose a serious risk to the entire area. The committee hence confirms the finding of the NGT that “a project of this magnitude particularly in partnership with a foreign country has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts un-answered.”

 

It is a different matter that the Roy Paul Committee has incorrectly limited its own mandate – looking only at “conditions” of the 2011 environment clearance rather than a full review as mandated in their Terms of Reference (ToR) as well as directions of the NGT. It also tries to claim that the revised EIA can be made and the process go ahead without a public hearing or a new environmental clearance – but this is simply illegal. None of this attempt to shield POSCO and their former colleagues changes the facts that the Committee reveals.

 

Three of our people have given up their lives to stop this illegal and unjust project. What the Committee report confirms is that no one – including the government that is unleashing brute force against us – has any idea how many more lives will be lost, and how much more damage caused, if this project indeed comes up. It is time that the State and Central government stopped acting on behalf of POSCO as its agent and instead take the serious social, human rights environmental and legal issues on board to reject the project in its entirety.

 

 

 

Prashant Paikaray

 

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

 

Mobile no – 09437571547

 

E- mail- prashantpaikaray@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Vedanta nudges Odisha again for bauxite supply


Sadananda Mohapatra  April 13, 2013, BT

VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources

 
 
 
 
 

Vedanta Aluminium, which has shut its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh due to bauxite unavailability, has written to the Odisha government once again for ensuring supply of the raw material.

“Thousands have become jobless. We shall be grateful if urgent action is taken for ensuring bauxite supply in line with the memorandum of understanding between Odisha government and VAL,” said Mukesh Kumar, president of the company.

The company had entered into a pact with state run miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to source bauxite from the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills with deposits of around 70 million tonne.

Since its shutdown, VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources as the pact ensured supply of 150 million tonne of the raw material to feed the company’s one million tonne refinery.

In February, VAL requested the inter ministerial group of the state government, constituted for raw material supply to state-based industries, to expedite processing of pending applications of OMC, especially those bauxite leases falling under non-forest areas.

These applications are either at PL (prospecting license) or ML (mining lease) stages.

The company had also approached the government to allow OMC or any private player to the excavate low grade bauxite deposits buried in exhausted iron ore mines of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Rungta Mines.

The state government has already conducted a hearing on the lease renewal of a bauxite mine of Rungta Sons, but nothing has moved since then.

“Further to the presentation made by us before the ministerial committee on February 15, we would like to bring your kind attention that the plant is still under temporary shut down as no arrangement for bauxite could be made,” Kumar said in the letter.

 

Almost 42,000 hectares of forest land diverted in Odisha


,Jayajit Dash  |  Bhubaneswar  March 26, 2013 BS

Land diversion for mining, irrigation, power, roads, railways, industries & defence

Forest land to the tune of 41,891.25 hectares (or 1,03,515.53 acres) has been diverted in Odisha till March 6, 2013 since the enactment of Forest Conservation Act-1980 by the Centre.
The forest land diversion has been effected for various sectors like mining, irrigation, power, roads, railways, industries and defence.Almost all standalone mine lesses and industrial players with end-use projects like National Aluminium Company (Nalco) have benefited from forest land diversion in the state.

Forest land diversion has been carried out in the state in accordance with Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act, forest minister Bijayshree Routray said in a written reply in the state assembly.

On compliance to Forest Rights Act and the August 2009 notification of the Union ministry of environment & forest, he said, “The proposals submitted to the MoEF are processed in accordance with the guidelines dated August 3, 2009 issued by the ministry in the matter of compliance of Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act-2006.
Certificate on five terms complying to the provisions of the above circular of MoEF is submitted by the collectors of the concerned districts who head the district level committee for settlement of Forest Rights and are annexed to the forest diversion proposal while recommending the diversion proposal to the ministry. The certificates along with the resolution of the gram sabha duly signed by the members present and its English version are sent to MoEF for consideration.”

The state government is sitting over 431 proposals of forest land diversion across sectors like irrigation, industry, mining, energy, railway, roads & bridges and human habitations.

Mining sector tops the list with 205 proposals pending for diversion of forest land.

Other sectors with forest land diversion proposals in the pipeline are irrigation (27), industry (29), energy (44), railway (21), roads & bridges (37), human habitations (2) and miscellaneous (66).

It may be noted that mining activity alone has resulted in diversion of 8,194.86 hectares (or 20,249.94 acres) of forest land in Keonjhar district.

 

Inside report from the Supreme Court Niyamgiri case against #Vedanta #mustread #mustshare


Dongria demonstrate at Lanjigarh, 6th Dec 2012

This report comes from Foil Vedanta’s friend in the court room as the Niyamgiri case continues…

19th February 2013, foilvedanta.com

Last week, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the ongoing Vedanta case, saying the government and not the tribals and forest dwellers will have the final say in diversion of forestland for mining projects. FRA states that forest dwellers cannot be resettled from forestland unless their traditional rights over such land are recognised, and a 2009 order of MoEF had made it mandatory for all the projects which require forestland diversion to obtain consent of the affected gram sabhas (village councils). In December last year, the ministry stated in the court that the forest dwellers protected by FRA cannot be displaced except for protection of wildlife. However, in a change of stance on February 15, the ministry said in the court that consent of the people will be required only in cases where displacement of large number of people is involved and which affect the quality of life of the people. While the ministry did not even mention its 2009 order in the affidavit, it said the mining proposal should not be allowed because Dongria Kondh tribals have been protecting and worshipping Niyamgiri hills for centuries as their sacred deity. Mining on that land will undermine the customary rights of Dongria Kondhs to manage their own affairs in the matter of religion and fundamental right to conserve their culture. This stance provided the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMCL) and Sterlite Industries (the Indian arm of Vedanta) fodder and weakened the case against Vedanta. Clearly, the ministry has backtracked when asked to take a stand on the issue by the court.

The day started with Mr.Sundaram laying arguments for Orissa Mining Corporation (OMCL) and Sterlite Industries, and making a desperate case for why mining should be allowed in the Niyamgiri hills. He stated that the question of ecology and environment had already been tackled in previous judgements in November, 2007 and August, 2008 which had considered all the alleged violations under the EPA and FCA. Hence, this need not be discussed further and the only thing that the counsel needs to counter is the accusation of violation of FRA. Mr.Sundaram stated that there are no individual claims under FRA remaining and all claims had been settled — except 185 pending cases, which however, are not under the ambit of the proposed mining area. At this point, Justice Aftab Alam interjected to say, “Mr.Sundaram, this statement of yours that there is no claim remaining in the mining area is rather suspicious”. To this, Mr.Sundaram went on to rapidly quote a whole string of data about claims which have been settled and about land allocated. Then he said that 6 community claims were made to the Gram Sabha. Out of the 6 cases, 3 cases were claims on “pinpointed” areas and those claims had been settled and 16055 acres were allotted. However, the remaining three claims are for the whole mountain as a sacred hill, which Mr.Sundaram tried to say is not valid, and he went on to make a whole host of ridiculous arguments to prove it. The fact that FRA mandates that forest dwellers cannot be evicted from the land under their occupation till the recognition and vesting of rights under the Act is complete applies to the land under occupation only and not to the undefined territories used by the communities, he said.“Recognition of community rights can be a continuous process”, screamed Mr.Sundaram, “besides, the project is not evicting the tribals from the land under their occupation; the vesting of individual rights is already complete”. He went on to explain how the meaning of “habitat” under the FRA should be read only as occupational right, and not as usage rights to a whole area, in this case, the whole mountain. Territorial right under the FRA, Sundaram claimed, has to be with “holding the land of occupation”, and community right as the “right to specific identified areas”, as in the case of the 3 community claims that have been settled. He further argued that only in the case of occupation, forest rights need to be recognised at the advent. Hence, according to the counsel, the 3 community claims to the whole mountain, “have no merit”. To this, Justice Aftab Alam said that this decision had to be made by the concerned gram sabha. Sundaram vehemently replied, “one gram sabha cannot hold state to ransom” —– “I am the State government, it is my mine and my minerals, my usage cannot be prevented by one gram sabha!” he asserted.

Even more ridiculous than the above arguments was when Mr.Sundaram sought to put forward the case for why the community claim to the mountain as a place of worship is not valid. Mr. Sundaram claimed that the FRA nowhere talks about religion, and hence sacred rights cannot be interpreted into the Act. He said that the FRA is not where scared rights come from, but from Article 25 and other provisions of the Constitution. At this, Justice Aftab Alam asked, “Why are you trying to split up rights? Sacred rights are as much part of identity as any right, which makes it a question of survival. You cannot tell the tribals take your God to another place.” Mr.Sundaram went on trying to desperately prove his point with statements such as this, “Religious right is different. Does your right to believe in all pervasive lord be taken to imply that even the building that we are arguing at this moment is an intrusion into God’s space?”; “Religious right gives you the right to worship, but not the right to property”; “there needs to be atleast a shrine or something, when one’s belief is so intangible and nebulous as in the case of the Dongria Kond, one cannot take it to the extreme in the forms of rights”; “there is anomaly, when you say this mountain is my God and then also graze cattle there”; “these community claims to the whole mountain were instigated by NGOs, it never came from the people”; “the question is how far we can stretch religious rights? Does FRA prevent development?”. This line of argument was also made possible by the weakened stand taken my MoEF in its affidavit in the court, which basically reduced the whole issue of compliance with FRA to the violation of sacred rights of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs).

After arguing that religious rights do not include rights to property and that there needs to be tangible limitations to what right to worship encompasses, Mr.Sundaram very cunningly tried to make the case for how the “wrong hilltop” was being talked about. Presenting a map to the judges, he showed to the them how the highest peak of the mountain is not Niyamgiri, but Nimagiri, which is not under the proposed mining area —- “Nimagiri is the abode of their god and there is also some sort of concrete structure of worship at that peak”, he claimed. He talked about how the Saxena committee report had got it all wrong because it says that the Dongria Kond worship the highest peak, which in their report is Niyamgiri, which is factually incorrect. Mr.Sundaram thus, made the submission that the mining site is not the abode of God for the Dongria Kond, as it is not the highest peak. At this point, the bench asked, “So since Nimagiri is the highest point, are you trying to infer that it is the sacred peak and abode?” Mr.Sundaram also gave the judges copies of a 1986 publication by the Socio-cultural Research Institute in Bhuwaneshwar. He read out various passages from this book by ‘experts’, to show that “Niyam Raja is obsolete”, and since there are small structures dedicated to Niyamraja outside every village hut of the tribals, “it is in their houses that the gods are”. Here, Justice Aftab Alam made a very pertinent point, when he said, “Mr.Sundaram, it has happened so many times in history that some learned persons have told people – this is your religion, this is what your belief should be. We have to clarify what the tribals see as their belief.”. It is important to mention here, an exchange that took place in court during this conversation. Mr. Sundaram proclaimed, “Belief is not sacrosanct”. At this Justice Aftab Alam asked, “Bauxite is sacrosanct then, is it?”, to which Mr.Sundaram replied, “No, but Economic Development is sacrosanct. We are talking about one of the most backward districts in the country here.”

During this hearing, Mr.Sundaram also again reiterated the Orissa state government’s grievances on the Saxena Committee report. He mentioned how one hour after the state government had met with Jairam Ramesh raising objections to the report, Mr. Ramesh had gone on to announce the cancellation of mining based on the report. Mr.Sundaram complained that the report was biased, “I only had one meeting with NC Saxena, where he appreciated the implementation of FRA in Orissa as the minutes show”. The counsel also challenged the CEC’s calculation that with expansion of the refinery, bauxite from the mountain will run out in 4years — instead, they argued that it would last for the next 25years. The counsel also brought up the issue of the Mines and Minerals Act, and said how the FRA cannot neutralise the provisions of this Act, as the FRA itself states that it is in addition to, and not in derogation of other Acts. They also argued that the issue of expansion of the refinery is not relevant, as it is a separate matter from mining. The case was also made for rehabilitation and compensation, and about how the mining process will and has already generated employment in the area, while bringing in development and infrastructure in the form of schools, hospitals, roads etc.

20th February

The hearing started with the Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran laying down his case. He stressed how the compliance with FRA needs to be “independently” acknowledged, and final clearance cannot be considered only after community rights have been secured. He also stated that Vedanta was guilty of not only non-compliance, but also of violation of numerous conditions. On being asked by the bench, the Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran listed in a detailed manner a series of 13 violations by Vedanta. Mr. Parasaran said that the court by its Aug 8, 2008, order had granted the clearance only for stage one of the project and the automatic clearance for stage two did not flow from that and it could not be reduced to a mere formality. Mr. Parasaran said the court by its order had itself said that the Ministry of Environment and Forest would decide clearing the stage two of the project in “accordance with law.”

Mr.Parasaran argued that since the meaning of habitat is ambiguous under the FRA, “it should be given the widest possible meaning, so as not to restrict the scope of the right, especially when it is a remedial right. He then elaborated on the ‘integrated’ way of life of the Dongria Kond, and the forms of their livelihood which included grazing, horticulture etc. — making the case for why access and usage rights to the mountain range is important to the tribals in numerous ways. Territorial rights under the FRA thereby, needs to be interpreted “beyond just village boundaries”. During this argument, Justice Aftab Alam asked, “But will tribals continue to be tribals all life? If offered the benefits of the modern age, will they not accept it? Will they live for ages and ages on grazing for their livelihood?”. Here, the Solicitor General, pointed out how the FRA provides for infrastructure and amenities such as schools, hospitals, roads, aaganwadis, drinking water, minor irrigation facilities, tanks, fair-price shops etc. Justice Alam was not convinced, and commented, “These amenities are beneficiary in nature to be provided by the state, what about generation of employment?”. There were other statements such as there from the bench “What if the tribals don’t want to continue how they are living and they want modern facilities?; If 5000 of the 7000 Dongria Kond say that they want development, you cannot tell them that – no you cannot have these modern amenities, as that is not what the FRA expects you to do.; What is it that the tribals really want?”. The bench also commented that it will have to be ascertained how much of the infrastructure and development espoused by Vedanta is actually there on the ground. They acknowledged the possibility that the tribals may want these developmental benefits, but still not want the company Vedanta to be there. To this, Mr.Sundaram from the company’s side interjected saying, “There is NO objection from tribals, my Lord”.

The Solicitor General also read out various sections from the NC Saxena Committee report, which included testimonials from individuals of the Dongria Kond who would be affected by the mining. When one of the testimonial was being read out, Justice Alam expressed confusion saying, “Why are people saying ‘we cannot leave our land’? Why this apprehension that they are going to be displaced, when the company says that there would be no displacement for mining? If the consequence of mining operation is that it will displace the tribals, that is a very serious matter and it demolishes Mr.Sundaram’s arguments from yesterday”. Mr.Parasan responded that even if mining might not be directly displacing the people, it has a severe impact on their lives. To this, Justice Radhakrishnan remarked, “By that logic, we would have to stop all mining in the country”. The Solicitor General argued that it does not always have to be the case, but sought to explain how with respect to Vedanta the consequences of mining would be disastrous on the Dongria Kond. He further read out the section on “Impact of Mining” from the NC Saxena Committee Report to support his argument.

Mohan Parasaran then went on to make the case for how religious and sacred rights come under the ambit of the FRA. He pointed out to clause 3.1.(j) which states “rights….which are accepted as rights of tribals under any traditional or customary law of the concerned tribes of any State” and to clause 3.1.(l) which states “any other traditional right customarily enjoyed by the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes or other traditional forest dwellers……….”. He reasoned that religious right in the form of right to their sacred mountain for the Dongria Kond has to be read as a customary and traditional right, which falls under the jurisdiction of the FRA. To this, Justice Radhakrishan enquired, “But the clauses you mention are under the heading of Forest Rights, why include religious right in an Act such as this?”. The Solicitor General responded saying that, “The FRA should not exclude any right for a forest-dweller.” He also referred to a previous court judgement with regard to a case involving Shias and Shunnis, that mentions “customary right to perform religious practice”.

The afternoon session of the hearing started with the Mr.Parasaran reading out the summary of the NC Saxena report, on request by the bench. When he was reading out the paragraph in the report that talks about how no consultations where conducted with the gram sabhas about this project, Justice Alam remarked how it was “a completely opposite picture” to what Mr.Sundaram had presented the day before. When the question about the the fact that the process of determination of rights under FRA had not been completed at the level of the gram sabha, the bench enquired if “the union can vest gram sabhas with such powers that the powers of the State government is nullified”. To this, the Solicitor General pointed to specific articles in the Constitution that empowered gram sabhas in this manner. He also mentioned that given that the mining area is notified as a Scheduled area, gram sabhas here especially have a strong mandate. Vedanta was hence, also guilty of non-implementation of PESA. Also he clarified that MoEF cannot grant clearance unless FRA procedure is fully complete, irrespective of the fact if people have filed claims or not.

The next submission of the day was by Advocate Sanjay Parekh who is representing the tribals in the case. He first expressed his grievance that he had not yet been allowed to present his case, given that the tribals ought to be the main affected party in this case. Mr.Parekh began his submission by quoting a paragraph from the book “Out of This Earth” by Felix Padel and Samarendra Das, where to the question of “What is your religion?”, the Dongria Kond tribal replies, “Mountains”. In fact, the OMC lawyer objected to the reference from this book, saying that it was written by academics and activists who are politically motivated and have led a campaign against Vedanta. Mr.Parekh used this instance to illustrate how we have to understand and be sensitive to the culture and beliefs of the Dongria Kond, as it is very different from the mainstream perceptions of our society. He argued that the determination of the rights vested in this context has to be done by the gram sabha. Just a few minutes after Mr.Parekh had started his submission, the bench bombadred him with a whole host of questions that were steeped in a very poor understanding of tribal issues and values, and also displayed a highly patronising narrative. Some of those questions were – “Have the tribals been made aware of the material benefits that will come to them under the orders of this court? Only once they are aware of this, can they give conscious and informed consent!; Can you read out any section in the NC Saxena Committee report where they have specifically rejected the modern benefits?; The tribals have been living this way of life for hundreds of years, you want them to do that for hundred more years? They cannot remain primitive forever; Are you Mr.Parekh, of all people, trying to say that they are destined to live in poverty for the next hundred years also?; They are being told all negative impacts of mining, the FRA does not ban them from choosing modernity, if they see it as better for them”; As long as this court is there, how can their land be taken away? By an order of this court guaranteeing the benefits of modernity, wouldn’t we undo some of the historical injustice you refer to Mr. Parekh?”. Justice Aftab Alam emphasised that “this court will take utmost cognisance of the wish of tribals, but the wish must be conscious after being made aware of the good and bad impacts of mining”, although he said that “it will not be determinative”. To these various statements, Mr.Parekh tried to make the case for how the bench is using the wrong lens to look at the matter. “If we ask critically, development benefit has gone to whom, My Lord?”, asked Mr.Parekh. He argued how we cannot use the same parameters used for mainstream society to decide on what the tribals want – for instance, for most tribal communities, happiness is not derived from material wants, but from a sustainable way of life that lives in harmony with nature. “This integrated way of living should be protected”, said Mr.Parekh. Mr.Parekh also presented some individual tales of Dongria Kond tribals and their opinions about the adverse effect that the proposed mining will bring to their way of life. At this, the bench interjected to say, “I am sure the other side can present 15 affidavits from members of the Dongria Kond, along with photos, stating how the mining activity will change their lives for the better. One or two incidents cannot demonstrate the larger picture – which is what we are interested in”. Here, Mr.Parekh talked about the pollution of ground water caused by the refinery, and as well as how if the mining started, the source of the rivers at the top of the mountain, which allows for their livelihood and survival will be destroyed. These he claimed are gross and large scale violations of rights which has and will put the survival of the Dongria Kond at stake, and also provides us with a larger picture. Given the unethical practices of Vedanta so far, the Dongria Kond cannot trust the company at all. Mr. Parekh pointed out that “it is the responsibility of the state to provide and facilitate for development. The state has not been doing that, and how can we expect a private company to come in now and do this?”. He also mentioned that even in the case of the Jarava tribes of the Andamans, it was the same debate with regard to development through tourism. In this case, the court decided in favour of protection of the tribals.

The session ended with a short submission by the representative of CEC, Mr. Raj Pajwani, who argued that once mining starts, there might not be physical displacement, but the habitat of the Dongria Kond will be destroyed – “once you cut off the source, then what happens to rivers and agriculture?”, he said. The CEC’s submission also reiterated the various violations of procedure committed by Vedanta.

21st February

I was not present in Court this day. The day started with Mr.Parekh finishing his case on behalf of the tribals from the day before. The CEC also made another submission. It ended with OMC and Vedanta side presenting a response. The final arguments for the case have been laid down now. The bench has reserved judgement on the matter.

 

Press Release- Letter to MoEF Immediately cancel the Environmental Public Hearing #mustshare


Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

c/o 37 Patrakar Colony, Tandalja, Vadodara 390 020, Phone/Fax: 0265-2320399

Email: tokrishnakant@gmail.comrohit.prajapati@gmailc.om

BY Email & FAX

Most Urgent – Most Urgent – Most Urgent

27 February 2013

To,

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan

Minister of State for Environment and Forests

Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110 003

 

The Secretary

Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India
Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex,  Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110 003.

 

The Chairman

Central Pollution Control Board

Parivesh Bhawan, CBD-cum-Office Complex, East Arjun Nagar, DELHI – 110 032

 

The Member Secretary

Central Pollution Control Board

Parivesh Bhawan, CBD-cum-Office Complex, East Arjun Nagar, DELHI – 110 032

 

The Zonal Officer

Central Pollution Control Board

Parivesh Bhawan, Opp. VMC Ward Office No. 10, Subhanpura,

Vadodara - 390 023

 

The Chairman

Gujarat Pollution Control Board

“Paryavaran Bhavan” Sector 10-A, Gandhinagar – 382 010

 

The Member Secretary

Gujarat Pollution Control Board

“Paryavaran Bhavan” Sector 10-A, Gandhinagar – 382 010

 

The Regional Officer

Gujarat Pollution Control Board

Plot No. 1154/2, B, Ghogha Circle,

Pattani Road, Bhavnagar - 364 002

 

The Chairman / The Collector

Environment Public Hearing Committee of Bhavnagar

 

Subject: Following serious anomalies in the EIA report for the Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant prepared by Engineers India Limited, request to immediately cancel the Environmental Public Hearing.

 

Reference: Our letter dated 22 February 2013 – Demand to cancel the scheduled Environmental Public Hearing as well as rejection of the EIA report of the Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant prepared by ‘Engineers India Limited’ consultants for ‘Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.’ Engineers India Limited do not have necessary accreditation.

Madam/ Sirs,

This follows our earlier representation dated February 22, 2013 pointing out how an un-accredited consultant, Engineers India Limited(EIL) was appointed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to prepare the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi area of Bhavnagar district, Gujarat.  While we seek the cancellation of the public hearing for the plant, we bring to your notice serious anomalies which have come to fore.

First, the Terms of Reference for the MoEF at point no. 7 clearly mention that The study area should cover an area of 10 km radius around the proposed site for conventional pollutants and 30 km radius for radiological parameters.” Instead the EIA report categorically mentions that 30 Kms for radiological areas of the study will be undertaken in future, the radiological survey is yet to be carried out for 30 Kms area and have not been carried out as stipulated by MoEF in the Terms Of Reference (TOR).

But this has been clearly violated. No villager/village panchayat in the 10-30 kms radius has been informed or served notice for the public hearing as the rules stipulate by the concerned authorities.

The EIA report clearly states that the study has been done only within 10 km radius and it is in future further studies will be conducted. The report itself mentions:

Page 283

“Areas Surveyed

Radiological survey will be done up to a radial distance of 30 km around the plant. Generally, samples from various environmental matrices will be collected from the survey area. The indicator organism like goat thyroid will be collected from selected area (as per the requirements of AERB). Different types of samples will be collected from the terrestrial and aquatic environs of the 30km study area covering, soil, cereals, pulses and vegetation samples. Typically around 1000 samples will be collected and analysed every year. List of sampling locations, frequency of sampling and different types of samples to be monitored during post project period in different area will be worked out as per the requirements of AERB.

Page 383

“11.1.3 MONITORING RADIOLOGICAL PARAMETERS AROUND MITHIVIRDI

Comprehensive radiological survey will be conducted by Health Physics Division (HPD) of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in the zone of radial distance of 30 km and the same will be continued till the life of Mithivirdi NPP for monitoring of radiation impacts and to establish that the radiation dose, in the public domain are within the prescribed limits of AERB.

Thirdly, the EIA report mentions that a detail of the de-commissioning of the plant is explained in the section 4.3.11 of Chapter 4, as stipulated.

But there is no section 4.3.11 in the Chapter 4 of the EIA report and the sections are only upto section 4.3.10. We understand that the said details have not been gathered and the study remains incomplete as there is no mention of that in the EIA report.

Sr. No. TOR of MoEF TOR Compliance Our contention
7 The study area should cover an area of 10 km radius around the proposed site for conventional pollutants and 30 km radius for radiological parameters Study on conventional pollutants  covered in  Section 3.4 of Chapter – 3 & Study on radiological parameters covered in  Section 3.5.11  of Chapter – 3 of EIA report The study is incomplete, villages in the area 10-30 kms not notified about public hearing.
35 Issues relating to de-commissioning of the plant and the related environmental issues should be discussed De-commissioning of the plant is explained in  Section 4.3.11 of Chapter – 4 The study is incomplete, section mentioned is not in the report.

 

We demand that:

  1. The concerned authority should immediately cancel the EPH as EIA is incomplete.
  2. The concerned authority should immediately reject the EIA of Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant of NPCIL prepared by EIL as EIA is incomplete.
  3. The concerned authority should apologise to the people of Gujarat for such a grave mistake allowing EPH on an illegal and incomplete EIA.
  4. The concerned authority should pass stricture against NPCIL and consultant EIL for such an illegal action on their part.

 

Expecting your positive and prompt response.

Krishnakant        Rohit Prajapati          Swati Desai
Activists
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

 

 

Have sought accreditation to assess Nuclear Power projects: EIL to GPCB


Nuclear Power Corporation of India

 

 

 

Adam Halliday: Ahmedabad, Indian Express, 23 February 2013

The consultants for the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power project have told the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) that they have applied to be registered as qualified assessors for nuclear power projects, said GPCB officials.

Officials said the public hearing for the project will therefore be held as scheduled on March 5, even as environmentalists have petitioned Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan to cancel the hearing because of the issue. They said they have not received any response from the ministry. “The public hearing will be held as scheduled on March 5,” said Bhavnagar District Collector V P Patel.

The GPCB had last week asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to clarify why it had hired an unqualified consultant to assess its proposed 6000 MW project. The NPCIL had referred the matter to the Engineers India Limited (EIL), the consultants, to respond directly.

At the end of the draft environment impact assessment report for the project, EIL, a public-sector undertaking, has attached a copy of its QCI-NABET certification in which it shows it has been given conditional accreditation to assess category B thermal power plants.

Category B Thermal Power Plants are those with a capacity of 500 MW or less, which can be cleared by state authorities. Category A power plants, on the other hand, refers to plants of higher capacities, and need clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). All nuclear power plants fall in category A.

No consultant in the country has been accredited to assess nuclear power plants, although the NPCIL already runs six such units with a total capacity of 4,780 MW generated from 20 reactors.

The proposed plant at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district will be the first such project built using American nuclear technology.

 

 

 

#India- Environment ministry denies forest clearance to Vedanta #goodnews


18 FEB, 2013, 04.47AM IST, ET BUREAU

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.
NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has defended in the Supreme Court its decision to deny forest clearance under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to Orissa Mining Corporation’s plan to mine the Niyamgiri Hills to source bauxite for Vedanta‘s alumina plant, while simultaneously leaving the door open for possible dilution of the Forest Rights Act in other project areas. The alumina plant was granted environmental clearance in 2007. Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.Both OMC and Vedanta’s Indian arm Sterlite have challenged in court the MoEF‘s refusal to give forest clearance to mining. The MoEF has defended its refusal to give permission to divert forest land for mining in the hills on several counts — that it violates the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondhs, a vulnerable tribal group living in this scheduled area, and also their right to inhabit and use the forests as traditional forest dwellers under the FRA. The plan to mine a 7 sq-km area atop the hills held sacred by this tribe violates their right to religion, the MoEF affidavit, filed on Friday, said.

OMC, Sterlite and the Odisha government had accused the MoEF of indulging in doublespeak on the FRA to deny clearance only to OMC’s mining plans and asked the court to direct it to explain whether no forest land can ever be diverted for development under FRA or they were only making an exception for Vedanta.

In a reply affidavit, the MoEF defended its refusal to deny forest clearance to 26% joint venture partner OMC’s plans to mine the hills, but left scope for the Act to be diluted in other cases, possibly to take care of development considerations raised by the PMO, experts suggested. The ministry was asked to state whether the FRA did not envisage any diversion of forest land for development activities or whether it could be permitted under some terms. In its affidavit, the ministry said eligible forest dwellers cannot be evicted “till the process of recognition and vesting of individual and community forest rights under the Act is complete.” Even in areas where rights have been recognized or are “likely to be recognised” diversion of forest land should be “avoided” and that it should be “the last resort after examination of alternatives.”

Forest land cannot be diverted for #Vedanta project, says India #goodnews


New Delhi, February 16, 2013

 

English: Dongri Kondh Dance from Kalahandi

English: Dongri Kondh Dance from Kalahandi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

J. Venkatesan, The Hindu

Justifying the cancellation of the environmental clearance granted to Vedanta for the Lanjigarh Bauxite mining project in Odisha, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on Friday said that forest land cannot be diverted under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the MoEF said: “The diversion of forest land on the proposed mining site of the Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is violative of the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondh tribals as well as the spirit of Forest Rights Act especially for the vulnerable tribal groups such as the Dongria Kondh and thus cannot be allowed for this reason alone.”

It said: “More than 7 sq. km. of the sacred undisturbed forests on top of the mountain, where the proposed mining lease area of the Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is located has been protected for centuries by the Dongria Kondh, a primitive tribal group [now termed as particularly vulnerable tribe] as sacred to their deity. Diversion of these sacred areas for mining will undermine the customary rights of the Dongria Kondhs to protect their sacred places of worship and thereby amount to a violation of their fundamental right to manage their own affairs in the matter of religion and fundamental right to conserve the culture of their own. It was also in direct violation further of the specific provisions of the Forest Rights Act.”

According to the Orissa Mining Corporation, which filed the writ petition, the then Minister of State for MoEF, Jairam Ramesh, passed an order, withdrawing the environmental clearance just a day before the Council of Ministers was reshuffled. It said that no mandatory notice was given before such withdrawal. The then Minister withdrew the clearance despite knowing that the matter was sub judice and that the Supreme Court issued notice three months ago on a writ petition. It sought quashing of the order. The Centre filed its response on this petition.

The Centre said: “The Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is located in Scheduled Areas as referred to in Clause (1) of Article 244 of the Constitution. Circumscribing or extinguishing of forest rights in such areas shall be in conformity with the provisions of the clause-5 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.

“Section 5 of the 2006 Act inter alia provides that the holders of the forest right, Gram Sabha and village level institutions in areas, where there are holders of any forest rights under this Act, are empowered to ensure that habitat of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers is preserved from any form of destructive practices affecting their cultural and natural heritage.”

 

 

#India-Stop moves to bypass Forest Rights Act when taking forest land for large projects #tribalrights


 

To:

Dr. Manmohan Singh 

Prime Minister of India 

New Delhi 110001

011-23019545 / 011-23016857

Sub: Stop moves to bypass Forest Rights Act when taking forest land for large projects

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh-ji,

For the last five years, ignoring protests from both people’s organisations and political parties, and despite the Forest Rights Act 2006, the practice of illegally grabbing forest land has remained dominantly in vogue in most of the country.  This happened because the Government of India could not make up its mind about what it intends to do with the Forest Rights Act, which recognises people’s rights over forest resources and their legal power to protect and manage them. The land-grab continued despite adverse comments by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, protests and mobilisations from across the country, and rhetoric from your government about its commitment to adivasi rights. Even the Minister of Tribal Affairs in your/ government, Shri Kishore Chandra Deo, has to write twice to highlight this illegality. Apparently, this has not stopped the Environment Ministry from indulging in grossly illegal practices of considering and clearing projects with definite environmental impacts.

The law requires that no forest land can be taken for a project without a certificate from the affected gram sabhas that their rights under the Forest Rights Act have been recognised, and that they( gram sabhas) agree to the diversion. As the Minister of Tribal Affairs himself put it, this is being “honoured in the breach” and the concerned statutory bodies are “misleading project proponents and the public”, thereby “produc[ing] conflict, harassment, injustice, delays and litigation.”

The question one likes to be answered is how a government that has recently seen one after another eruption of public anger against its callous and corrupt favouring of private interests, affords to favour the same interests at the cost of millions of forest dwelling citizens of this country, and compromising their legal and constitutional rights?

We now learn from media reports that your office, and in particular a committee headed by your  Principal Secretary, PMO, Pulok Chatterjee, has come out with a perfectly shocking state of ‘recommendations’ which aim to legalize the illegal practices the MoEF has been indulging in granting forest clearances for most projects. Citing a dubious reason of ‘delays in project clearances’ –something which none other than your Environment Minister has shown to be resulting from faulty documentation, fraudulent proposals and attempts at engaging in speculation—the rights of the some of the most marginalized and oppressed citizens of the country are to be sacrificed, by stipulating a series of unacceptable changes in the forest clearance process which in recent years has been to a great extent influenced by the order issued by the MoEF on August 2009.  The order which provided for a much needed regulatory framework to ensure compliance with both Forest Rights Act and PESA in the forest clearance process stands to be nullified if the PMO Committee’s recommendations are acted upon: the recommendations directly violate the FRA and, in Scheduled Areas, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (as well as by implication the Fifth Schedule itself). Procedural delay cannot be an excuse for bypassing laws. The alacrity, with which your government seeks to serve the interests of large corporations and resource grabbers, while paying a lip service to protecting tribal rights, exposes the real character of the UPA government’s administration.

We condemn this transparently corrupt, illegal and repressive move and demand. We therefore call upon you to:

  • Uphold and strictly enforce the Forest Rights Act and the 2009 order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests for FRA compliance, ensuring that no forest land is taken without gram sabha consent and without certificates from gram sabhas that rights recognition is complete;
  • Start criminal prosecution against officials who have diverted or tried to divert forest land without respecting people’s rights;
  • Withhold existing clearances for diversion of forest land. They should be cancelled if found to violate the provisions of the Act or the 2009 order. Where projects have already come up, those affected should be rehabilitated as well as granted additional compensation for the criminal violation of their rights (along with prosecution of those responsible).

Thanking You

 

Mahasweta Devi, Writer, Winner of Gyanpith and Magsaysay Award Winner

 

Dr. Ajit Banerjee, Ex- Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal

 

Samar Bagchi, Ex-Director, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata

 

Dr. Kalyan Rudra, River Expert, Columnist

 

Biswajit Mukherjee, Ex-Chief Law Officer, Dept. of Environment, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Prof. Sujay Basu, Scientist

 

Prof. Suvendu Dasgupta, Economist, Columnist

 

Jaya Mitra, Writer, Columnist

 

Dr. Meher Engineer, Ex-Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

 

Naba Dutta, Columnist and Secretary, Nagarik Mancha

 

Jayanto Basu, Environmentalist

 

Balai Soren, Secretary, Adibasi Banabasi Adhikar Mancho

 

Soumitra Ghosh, Secretary, Nespon, Siligui, West Bengal

 

Sasanka Dev, Secretary, DISHA, Kolkata

 

Pradip Chatterjee, Secretary, National Fishworkers’ Forum

 

Gobinda Das, Secretary, Sundarban Matsyajibi Joutha Sangram Committee

 

Tejendralal Das, President, Dakshin Banga Matsyajibi Forum