must warn readers that the scribe has given half the facts. no mention of notices from state pollution control board, complaints to nhrc, nc saxena, etc. rather makes the case for val . the times of india of course.
By Rajaram Satapathy, TNN | Nov 27, 2012, 04.49 AM IST
BHUBANESWAR: The Supreme Court on Monday fixed December 3 as the final date of hearing in the Niyamgiri bauxite mining case. The verdict will seal the fate of Vedanta Group’s Lanjigarh refinery in Kalahandi district.
The Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) went to the Supreme Court in March 2011 after the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) rejected stage-2 forest diversion proposal for the Niyamgiri bauxite mine, having an estimated deposit of 78 million tons, from where the state government had promised raw materials to Vedanta’s refinery.
The Vedanta group is the only private industrial house having done tangible investments in the state during the present Naveen Patnaikregime.
The one mtpa capacity refinery, however, has been embroiled in a series of controversies ranging from environmental activists protesting that it would jeopardise the fragile ecosystem of the region to political parties, particularly the Congress, clamouring that mining on Niyamgiri hill would spell doom for the endangered Dongria Kondh tribes.
OMC had got the lease in 2004. But mining became impossible in the area in the face of PILs that raised questions on the future of biodiversity, water bodies and Dongria Kondhs.
The court battle went on for several years, during which at least three major agencies like the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, Central Mines Planning and Design Institute, Ranchi, and the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) examined the charges made by the petitioners.
The Supreme Court cleared the project in August 2008 followed by the MoEF issuing environment clearance and Stage-1 green signal for diversion of about 660 hectares of forest proposed by the state government for the mining project. The MoEF while issuing the stage-1 clearance had put 21 conditions which included deposit of Rs 125 crore for development of wildlife and the tribals.
But the refinery’s problem though was far from over. This time it was the Central government that put blocks on the project. As the time came for the MoEF to issue the stage-2 forest clearance, it started dithering.
MoEF soon appointed an expert committee to study the fulfillment of conditions it had imposed earlier. The state government on its part placed its view before the MoEF that the conditions had been fulfilled, but things still were not going the refinery’s way.
As the MoEF constituted more expert groups to examine the charges against the project, it withdrew the stage-1 forest clearance as well. By August-end the signal was loud and clear that the project was heading to face a raw deal in the hands of the MoEF. And it happened.
MoEF rejected the stage-2 forest diversion proposal for the mining project sent by the state government. As the Centre refused to budge from its stand despite repeated persuasions by the state government, the OMC went to the apex court challenging the MoEF order.
Amid this the net loser has since been the refinery, which has in the meanwhile completed nearly 70% works, though allegedly illegally, for increasing the refinery’s capacity from one mtpa to 6 mtpa.
“We put up the plant believing the state government. Little did we know that the investment would take us running from pillar to post. We have no raw material in hand. We have already lost over Rs 2500 crore,” said a senior Vedanta official.
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