Supreme Court Committee Recommends Revocation
of Vedanta's License
CHENNAI -- The Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee on Forests
on 21 September, 2005, issued a report
recommending the revocation of environmental clearances given to Vedanta
Alumina Ltd's 1 million tonne aluminium refinery in the Niyamgiri
forests in Lanjigarh, Orissa. The CEC found that Vedanta had falsified
information to obtain environmental clearances, and destroyed more
than 10 hectares of forest land and begun construction work onsite
without obtaining necessary clearances under the Forest Conservation
Act. Referring to the Niyamgiri forests as "an ecologically sensitive
area," the CEC has recommended to the Supreme Court to consider revoking
the environmental clearance dated 22.9.2004 granted by the MoEF for
setting up of the Alumina Refinery Plant by M/s Vedanta and directing
them to stop further work on the project. The refinery project is
integrally dependent on the availability of 3 million tonnes of bauxite
ore from the densely forested Niyamgiri hills for which no clearance
has been obtained.
Hinting at complicity of the Union Ministry of Environment and the
Orissa Government in the violations, the CEC has written that "The
casual approach, the lackadaisical manner and the haste with which
the entire issue of forests and environmental clearance for the alumina
refinery project has been dealt with smacks of undue favour/leniency
and does not inspire confidence with regard to the willingness and
resolve of both the State Government and the MoEF to deal with such
matters keeping in view the ultimate goal of national and public interest."
Environmentalists, tribal activists and human rights proponents have
welcomed the CEC report and expressed the hope that the Rs. 4000 crore
project in the adivasi-dominated Niyamgiri region will be abandoned.
Tamilnadu groups said they will petition the Supreme Court and other
appropriate authorities to order investigations into irregularities
by State Pollution Control Boards and the Union Environment Ministry
to Vedanta group companies, including Sterlite and MALCO, with respect
to environmental regulations.
Vedanta - a UK-based mining company owned by NRI billionaire Anil
Agarwal - also operates a controversial copper smelter in Tuticorin
through its subsidiary Sterlite Industries India Ltd. Till date, the
Tuticorin complex operates without requisite clearances and consents.
As against a permitted annual production of 40,000 tonnes of blister
copper, the company was openly manufacturing more than 1,70,000 tonnes
of copper anodes. Further, it has constructed a new smelter, refinery,
cathode rod plant and captive power plant - all without clearances
from the MoEF or Consent from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board.
Clearance was granted for some of the components after the Supreme
Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes visited Tuticorin on
21 September, 2004, and observed the violations. The TNPCB has attempted
to regularise some violations in April 2005 by granting consent to
operate in defiance of the SCMC's recommendation to revoke the illegal
clearance and stop the construction work. SCMC's directions demanding
closure of Sterlite in Tuticorin have not been acted upon by the TNPCB.
MALCO - another Vedanta subsidiary - operates an aluminium smelter
and refinery in Mettur dam. In July 2003, a report by Justice (Retd)
Akbar Kadri, chairman of the Indian People's Tribunal investigating
human rights violations by the company, found the company guilty of
endangering the environment and public health. The company dumps "Red
Mud" - a toxic by-product of bauxite processing - on the banks of
the Mettur reservoir that supplies drinking and irrigation water to
seven districts of Tamilnadu.
Chennai-based Human Rights Tamilnadu Initiative and Tuticorin-based
Veeranganai women's movement said: "The CEC's report demonstrates
clearly the modus operandi of Vedanta/Sterlite, and the company's
reach within state and central governments. The Tuticorin smelter
is an even more blatant violation that will reveal the extent to which
corruption and rot has set in amongst our environmental regulators.
We demand that the illegal Tuticorin smelter be shut down immediately
and a CBI enquiry initiated to investigate the complicity of the Tamilnadu
Pollution Control Board and the Union Ministry of Environment in condoning
the illegal expansion and endangering environment and public health."
The CEC report can be found at http://www.indiaresource.org/issues/globalization/2005/CECSep2005cancellicense.html
For more information, contact:
T.S.S. Mani. Cell: 9444271908
Fatima Babu. Cell: 9443404855
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