MAC: Mines and Communities

Everything Vedanta touches turns to ashes!

Published by MAC on 2010-09-14
Source: Hindustan Times, Economic Times & others

Vedanta Resources plc is not just a major metals producer - it's also well on the way to being one of India's most important energy providers and power traders.

If its grandiose plans are allowed to materialise the UK-listed company will soon rank as the country's fourth most important oil outfit, having taken over Cairn India from its UK parent.

Through its subsidiary, Sterlite, Vedanta is also constructing a coal-fired power plant to serve its expanding Jharsuguda aluminium smelter in Orissa.

But the plant is slated to deliver three times as much electricity to the country's national grid, from what might become the largest carbon-emitting facility of its kind in India.

Vedanta the Violator

In contrast to the massive controversy provoked by Vedanta's now-failed attempt to mine Orissa's bauxite-rich Nyamgiri Hills, numerous other violations by the company have tended to be sidelined by activists and politicians.

That's the case with the Lanjigarh alumina refinery, adjacent to the now-halted Nyamgiri mine project; the refinery was itself "outlawed" by a Supreme Court subcommittee as far back as 2005. See SC Committee Says No to Vedanta/Sterlite’s Orissa Refinery.

It's even more true of the Jharsuguda smelter which Vedanta began building soon afterwards.

Having said this, the redoubtable environmental and social rights activist, Prafulla Samantara, was drawing attention to irregularities at this particular site from the outset of construction. See: Vedanta fined, as Indian judge declares environmental activism vital to combat "mankind's folly” and Protest Against Vedanta Smelter Plant Environment Clearance Public Hearing at Jharsuguda

A year ago villagers joined in protesting vigorously at further alleged damages and pollution: VAL flouted norms with impunity: Outfit

Just last week, residents blockaded the plant's power plant, because its coal ash emissions were literally flying in their faces, forcing it to close.

It takes two to tango

At the same time one of India's leading English-language newspapers, the Hindustan Times, revealed that Vedanta has been operating no fewer than nine power units for the smelter, in breach of conditions laid down by the Orissa state pollution control board (OSPCB).

Two of these units didn't even have a permit to operate on a "trial" basis.

Yet the OSPCB has reportedly not only allowed the offending smelter to re-start; it has also ignored the evidence published by the Hindustan Times that its power units are functioning illegally.

As noted by many commentators, there's long been a collusion between Vedanta and members of Orissa's state government agencies.

While millions of rupees, bundled into plain envelopes, may not pass directly between the parties, the stink of corruption still hangs heavy in the air.

[Comment by Nostromo Research, 14 September 2010].

No pollution clearance, Vedanta runs 10 units

By Priya Ranjan Sahu

Hindustan Times

9 September 2010

The Vedanta group is operating a large aluminium smelter plant and nine captive power units in Orissa's Jharsuguda district without clearances from the state pollution control board (OSPCB). Sources said there is massive political pressure on the OSPCB to wink at these transgressions and allow the plants to operate as this is one of the state's two showpiece FDI projects. Over two days - Tuesday and Wednesday - the state government stonewalled Hindustan Times' efforts to obtain its reaction.

According to a Right to Information reply obtained from OSPCB by an activist, two 135 MW captive power units of Vedanta Aluminium's 500,000-tonne-a-year smelter never got any clearance from the board.

Then, the "trial consent to operate" order OSPCB issued to the smelter and seven other 135 MW captive power plants, expired on March 31 this year.

The board has refused to renew its consent, citing numerous violations of its guidelines. The Union environment ministry recently refused to clear the group's bauxite mining project in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

Asked why no closure notice had been issued, OSPCB member-secretary Siddhant Das told HT: "The correct procedure is to send show cause notices, then ask for modifications and rectifications, call them for hearings. We issue closure notices only if all these procedures fail to produce results."

The board has issued four notices over the last five months. But that doesn't explain how the two power plants for which even trial consent orders were not issued remain in operation. "I have no comments to make on this as I do not know the details," said Das.

Orissa Industry Minister Raghunath Mohanty promised to revert after checking with his staff. Thereafter, he did not respond to calls from HT.

Orissa energy secretary Pradeep Jena said: "Please ask the pollution control board."

Vedanta, however, denied any wrongdoing. "There is no violation of the law. As of today, we have a valid consent from the OSPCB. This means it is satisfied with our pollution control norms. Renewal is an ongoing process, with the OSPCB asking for modifications from time to time," said Abhijit Pati, chief operating officer, Vedanta Aluminium.

On the two units that never received any clearance, Pati reiterated there was no illegality involved in their operation.

Vedanta suffers another green blow in Orissa

Economic Times

10 September 2010

BHUBANESWAR: Environmental issues have again affected Vedanta Resources, with its power producing arm, Sterlite Energy, forced to temporarily shut its power plant at Jharsuguda in Orissa, following protests by residents who alleged that the unit had caused air pollution.

The 600 megawatt power plant, which was formally commissioned by chief minister Naveen Patnaik recently on August 21, developed a technical snag soon after, sending fly ash - a by-product in power generation - into the air and causing problems to people living nearby.

When the problem, which started a week ago, persisted, some 300 villagers residing near the plant, protested by blocking the road leading to the plant from Jharsuguda.

Jharsuguda district collector SN Mishra immediately intervened by asking plant authorities to shut down the operation of the plant for the time being. "I have asked the plant authorities to shut down the plant, take corrective measures and report within 48 hours," Mr Mishra told reporters.

The plant authorities have been accused of not running the electrostatic precipitators - a device used to remove liquid droplets or solid particles from a gas in which they are suspended, preventing emission of fly ash into the air.

Sterlite Energy Jharsuguda chief operating officer Abhijit Padhi admitted that due to a technical snag in the precipitators, the fly ash content went high. "The company is taking proactive steps to control the situation by shutting down the power plant for the time being to correct the technical snag," he added.

The latest development may extend woes for the Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Resources which has been forced to buy bauxite from outside after the central government denied mining permission to Vedanta's joint venture partner Orissa Mining Corp, following protests from environmentalists.

The Jharsuguda unit, is an independent power producer, that generates power for use by the state grid. It is located in the same premises which houses Vedanta Resources 1,215-mw captive power plant that is used to make aluminium.

Once the IPP is fully operational, Sterlite Energy Jharsuguda will be the largest single-location power station in the country with a total production capacity of 3,615 mw. The total power produced from the Sterlite Energy's first unit will be given to Orissa state grid. The tariff is yet to be fixed.

Vedanta gets another jolt in Odisha, this time power shock


9 September 2010

Bhubaneswar - The people of Odisha are giving shocks to Vedanta one after another.

After depriving Vedanta of bauxite mines in Lanjigarh at Niyamgiri Hills, the local people forced the company to shut 600 MW Independent Power Plant (IPP) located at Jharsuguda, 370 km away from the state capital, within one month of its inauguration. The company has closed the plant because of a strong protest by the local people on Wednesday for allegedly causing air pollution.

It may be mentioned here that the state chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated the plant on August 21, 2010. Vedanta's 1,215 MW CPP [Captive Power Plant] and the IPP are located in the same compound.

The local people surrounding the plant were agitated over the emission of fly ash from the plant since its launch last month. More than 400 people on Wednesday blocked the road leading to plant from Jharsuguda and blackened the face of the two officials of the plant.

The local residents lifted the road block only after Jharsuguda district collector S N Mishra directed the plant management to shut down the operation of the plant temporarily.

He told the media that he has directed the authorities to shut down the plant. He asked the officials of the plant to take all the necessary corrective measures and report to him within two days.

Commenting on the current situation, Abhijit Padhi [the plant's] chief operating officer, said that the fly ash content went out in the air due to the technical fault.

The company is taking pre-cautionary measures to control the situation "We are shutting down the plant to take corrective measures", he added.

Old ash for new rice?

Update from Ranjan Panda

Water Initiatives Orissa

10 September 2010

Since yesterday night, after this news [above] was printed, Vedanta has already been allowed to continue running its power plant again.

It is reported that the company repaired the defects in the power plant that was raining ash. The Collector, who has given the permission to re-operate the plant, is reported to have got an assurance from the Vedanta that the "Ash will continue to rain for another 48 hours only" and if it continues beyond, the plant will again be stopped.

Even when the question remains whether the Collector has got ample technical support to verify whether the defect has been repaired or not, Vedanta's power is re-established and farmers fate goes down the dust.

So, this is Nuakhai gift of Vedanta to the farmers nearby. We at WIO have been raising the issue of reducing farm produce in and around the Vedanta plant in Jharsuguda.

This year, with a truant monsoon, the farmers are suffering double blow - of pollution and less rainfall. This ash will further choke their farm fields. Nuakhai, a festival of good harvest - when the people eat new rice - is being celebrated all across western Orissa tomorrow. The villagers near Vedanta will celebrate it with Ash!

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