MAC: Mines and Communities

Demand for Chief Minister's resignation over Vedanta scandal

Published by MAC on 2005-09-26

As news circulates of the Indian Supreme Court CEC's rejection of Vedanta's grandiose schemes in Orissa, a Human Rights organisation reminds us of the company's other violations. Opposition members in Orissa once again demand the Chief Minister's resignation - this time with plenty of ammunition under their belts

Demand for Chief Mininster's resignation over Vedanta scandal

Sunday Times (India)

26th September 2005

Opposition demands CM’s resignation Bhubaneswar: Opposition parties led by the state Congress has demanded the resignation of chief minister Naveen Patnaik in the wake of the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to revoke the environment clearance given for establishment of the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district by the Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL).

While president of Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee Jaydeb Jena asked Naveen to step down for showing undue favour to VAL, Orissa Gana Parishad (OGP) chief Bijay Mohapatra alleged that the shady deal has torn away mask of transparency donned by the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile the state Government in a bid to get away from the line of fire maintained that the deal with Vedanta allowing mining of bauxite ore from Niyamgiri hills was signed during the Congress regime in 1997.

The CEC’s report said that the casual approach, lackadaisical manner and the haste with which the entire issue of forest and environment clearance for the alumina refinery project has been dealt with smack of undue favour.

If a proper study had been initiated before embarking on the project and the objections from environmental and ecological angles known, in all probability, the project would have been abandoned, the report further said.

Addressing mediapersons, the State Congress president Jayadev Jena alleged that the CEC report had exposed violation of laws by Vedanta and were obviously backed by the Government.

Press Release: SC Committee Says No to Vedanta/Sterlite’s Orissa Refinery

Human Rights - Tamil Nadu & Veeranganai

24 September, 2005

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.”

For more information, contact:

T.S.S. Mani. Cell: 9444271908
Fatima Babu. Cell: 9443404855

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