South Asia Update (India and Bangladesh)Published by MAC on 2006-09-22
South Asia Update (India and Bangladesh)
22nd September 2006
Failures to address public concerns have revived anger at a prospective uranium processing plant in Andhra Pradesh.
Proposals by Tata to turn land, formerly leased for a steel plant, into a special economic zone are greeted with alarm by local fisherpeople and environmentalists.
Two Bangladesh authors examine what might have gone on behind the scenes between this same industrial powerhouse and the government of Bangladesh in brokering the company's "deal of the century" - which for the moment is moribund.
The long-awaited hearing by the Indian Supreme Court's Cental Empowered Committee on Vedanta'sapplication to mine Orissa's sacred Nyamgiri Hills, and commercially operate its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, has been postoned yet again. It is now expected at the end of September.
Meanwhile, Indian newspapers have pubished in full the authoritative report by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which we summarised earlier on this site. It confirms that the WII is utterly opposed to handing over this exceptional biosphere reserve to Vedanta or the Orissa Mining Corporation.
Declares the WII:
"The threats posed by the proposed project to this important ecosystem will lead to irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area...Th[e] cost benefit value should not only take into account the material benefits of bauxite ore mining over a period of 26 years but...the perpetuity of the resources and ecosystem services that would be provided by these forest in the future.
" Compromising long term economic return therefore cannot be an alternative for short term gains. "
Uranium project: another public hearing sought
Staff Reporter, The Hindu
20th September 2006
* Villagers prevented from expressing opinions, says struggle committee
* UCIL accused of mobilising `rowdy elements' to prevent affected villagers from reaching dais
* Withdrawal of cases against people who protested during public hearing demanded
KADAPA: Anti-Uranium Project Struggle Committee leaders staged a dharna before the Collectorate here on Monday demanding an open public hearing at Mabbuchintalapalle village in Vemula mandal soon, to mobilise people's opinion on the proposed uranium processing plant at Thummalapalle.
People of M. Thummalapalle, Bhomayyagaripalle, Mabbuchintalapalle and K.K. Kottalu were denied chance to air their views at the public hearing organised by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) at Thummalapalle on September 10, the protesters alleged.
The UCIL had mobilised `rowdy elements' of Pulivendula, Lingala and Thondur mandals and they obstructed affected villagers from going near the dais or expressing their opinions, they alleged.
Committee convenor B. Narayana, coordinator Siva Reddy and leaders -- N. Ravisankar Reddy and Ch. Chandrasekhar of CPI(M), G. Obulesu, G. Chandra and W. Ramu of CPI, Varalakshmi of Virasam, Jayachandra Reddy and Y. Viswanatha Reddy of Human Rights Forum, G.L. Muralikrishna of APCLC, Rajasekhar Rahul and B.V. Raju of Jana Vignana Vedika -- termed the UCIL public hearing as farcical.
They demanded withdrawal of cases registered against people who protested during the public hearing. Cases should be booked against `rowdy elements' who behaved rudely with affected villagers and tried to attack them, they demanded.
They accused Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, Kadapa MP, of acting as `spokesman' of UCIL and trying to stifle the voice of people of Pulivendula constituency. They demanded an open public hearing at Mabbuchintalapalle.
The UCIL report submitted to APPCB did not detail steps to neutralise radiation effects, they alleged. A tail-end pond was mooted after 15 years and no mention was made about disposal of hazardous waste until then. Officials assured compensation to 489 families whose private lands of 438.15 hectares was proposed to be acquired, but the hearing did not deal with land acquisition or compensation aspects, they alleged.
BANGLADESH: Tata investment for whom?
Justice Golam Rabbani,Nuruddin Mahmud Kamal, Engr. Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, Prof. M. Shamsul Al
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
20th September 2006
When the Board of Investment (BOI) turned a deaf ear to the protests against the Tata proposal, the media of Bangladesh played a positive role. Even though Tata signed their letter of 'expression of interest' for investment, on 13 October 2004, and subsequently submitted a formal investment proposal on 30 May 2005, facts continued to be held back from the main stakeholders -- the people of Bangladesh. For the past two years the imperious government had chosen the role of maestro and let the BOI act on its behalf as the master of ceremonies. Obediently, the BOI continued to hide the details of Tata's proposal in such a manner that a common man could not get access to relevant documents .This is impious.
Thanks to the media, both print and electronic, some data and analysis on the subject were available. It soon became obvious to us that the main objective of Tata, like any other investor's, was to seek the highest benefit based on the availability of cheap natural gas. They were not ashamed to offer one dollar
MCF for Bangladeshi natural gas for setting up production plants for one million ton fertilizer, 1000 megawatt power generation system, and 2.4 million tons of sponge iron /steel. Worse still is that a major portion of the products would be exported to India! The profit motive of an investor is quite understandable. There is nothing wrong in it. But, acceding to a proposal that will help plunder our natural resources is another matter. Such an ill motivated effort cannot be allowed. So the common people stood up against the unholy move. But what went wrong with the decision makers of Bangladesh has remained a mystery. Why did'nt the government publicly disclose a proposal of such national importance through the media, or otherwise?
Yet, we learned that around 3.25 Tcf, or over 50% of the proven reserve of gas ( 6.2 Tcf as per Nagorik Committee Report, November, 2002) in Bangladesh, would be needed to implement the three proposed projects of Tata. Even when this information leaked out, BOI was nonchalant. Tata was on the perch: watching. Opinions were voiced. And there was furor throughout the media. The government's first negotiating committee, led by Petrobangla, was confounded when it discovered that the price being offered for the gas was $ 1/ Mcf ! Quite understandably, the negotiation could not reach a consensus. The media reported disagreement on the gas price issue without giving any details. Chicanery on either side was not about to yield any benefit to anyone.
Having been put in an awkward position, Tata proposed an amended price, ranging between $ 1.5
Mcf and $ 4 /Mcf, with $ 1.5
Mcf in the initial 6 (six)years, and also an upgraded investment to $2.5 billion. BOI was excited and applauded Tata for the friendly gesture. Yet, the discussions did not proceed as desired. In fact, they stumbled.
After a while, negotiation with Tata's high powered delegation restarted with a handpicked Bangladeshi team. Even they were not visibly enthused by the terms and conditions. The discussions faced obstacles again. There followed a lull for several months.
Meanwhile, the people were persistently demanding transparency. Tata now changed its strategy to a cajoling mode. For the third time, Tata's offer was raised, this time to $ 3 billion. Both, Tata and the CEO of BOI, observed that this was 'the proposal of the century.' Unfortunately, every time TATA-BOI came up with a new proposal, people became more suspicious about the deal. The proponents locked-horns with the people.
The conscientious citizen's study apprehended enormous financial loss and environmental disaster, in addition to the adverse effect on the energy security of the country, if the contentious investment proposal went through . Realizing this the government hesitated to sign an agreement with Tata. Publicly, in the face of severe criticism, the company formally declared its investment proposal suspended. The interesting point is that, in spite of this declaration, Tata and the government seem to be cautiously working behind the scene for signing a contract under a new strategy. As a result of non-transparency and the ill motive so far demonstrated by the Tata-BOI axis, the people reacted by opting for public demonstrations, and writing and speaking through the media for rejecting the investment, as was undertaken four years ago in the case of a proposal for export of gas to India in 2002.
Yet, it came to us as a surprise when we heard that our finance minister told journalists at Hyderabad (India) that the government considers the new proposal from Tata much better than the one submitted earlier in 2004 ( May 6,2006, Prothom Alo). The energy advisor, echoing the minister, said: " Now there is no further need for negotiation. It is time for taking a decision" (May, 2006, Prothom Alo). He added: "This proposal is win-win for both the parties" (May 2006, Prothom Alo). In an emotionally charged voice the BOI chief further said that this has opened up a new horizon for both of us. Élan Rosling, the Chief executive of Tata also delivered his statement of truth: "This is the proposal of the century"(Prothom Alo, May 2006). Even with sich optimism, the negotiation did not succeed. Meanwhile, an international consultant, appointed through the "The Economist" by Tata, supported the proposal in vague terms. But the government never bothered to elucidate the benefit for Bangladesh.
The irate media made some harsh comments on the proposal. Some of them, as quoted under, deserve careful scrutiny :
. "Tata's revised investment proposal is a big bluff"(3/5/06, Shamakal).[In our opinion, it is a cleverly orchestrated proposal to woo, and befool, the inexperienced public representatives of Bangladesh.]
. "Tata`s proposal is simply a carrot!"(4/5/06 Ajker Kagoj).
. "What else could be termed suicidal, as well as a subversive act, if the gas is purchased at a higher price ( $ 2.90/Mcf ) and is then supplied to Tata for 20 years at less than half the purchase price ( 28 May,2006, Janakantha) .[ Incidentally, the international market price of natural gas ranges between $ 5 and 8 /MCF]
. "We have a hunch that, since Bangladesh is the champion in corruption, some group from within our country is behind the Tata deal (The editorial of Desh Bangla 25/3/06).
. "The proposal from Tata is non-transparent; reject it "( Sangbad, 28 May 2006).
. The points made by the steel mill rerolling mill owners association include, among others, "10 lac labourers will be unemployed if Tata's steel mill is commissioned." They further added, "innumerable steel and re- rolling mills will close down for shortage of gas, while Tata is assured of long term uninterrupted gas supply" (Naya Diganta7/5/06).
.The promoters of the national committee for protection of oil, gas, mineral resources in Bangladesh have categorically stated: "The plundering of national wealth shall cross all limits in the event of signing of the contracts with Tata and Asia Energy"(12/5/06, daily Shamakal). The committee has emphatically demanded cancellation of the contract (if it had been signed) with the Asian Energy Company, and also rejection of the proposal by Tata (12/5/06, Prothom Alo). Yes, we need investment, but not at the cost of our national interest.
.Our energy security is of prime importance. The interesting point is that the energy ministry is still considering further consultation at the "expert's level." "But the irony is that those who were involved in evaluation of the first proposal have not been consulted about the revised proposal from Tata. They are somehow in the dark" (12/5/06, Janakantha).
Happily, from time to time, the media has made many valid and justifiable comments about the inappropriateness of the evaluation process of the government of such a sensitive investment proposal of national importance. Mere elucidation of some of these views will indicate to a common man what is our Achilles' heel.
The considered opinion of the round table discussions, sponsored by the Institution of Engineers of Bangladesh (IEB), has been that "the proposals from either Tata or Asia energy will not usher in any benefit to the country. Natural resources of the country needs to be utilized as raw materials for our future industrialization" (17/5/06,Prothom Alo).
A round table conference, (held on 27 May 2006) sponsored by the National Committee for protection of oil, gas, mineral resources, electricity and ports, demanded rejection of the proposal received from Tata on the ground that it will severely hamper energy security as well as create environmental hazards in Bangladesh. It was also noted in the meeting that "the amount of loss just for gas supply to the projects of Tata will be 1.5 lac crore taka (one and half lakh crore taka)." Some speakers in the meeting commented: " the government would open another losing concern like Kafco while implementing Tata's proposal. The speakers further added: "gas is as good as mother's milk for the country. If it is misused, people will agitate on the streets against those who would dare to sell that gas rendering mother nature a desert."
It is surprising that Ms. Dua Hua, ADB representative stationed in Dhaka, has been lobbying strongly in favour of Tata's proposal. This was exacerbated by an undiplomatic remark by Ms. Patricia Butenis, US Ambassador in Bangladesh. These unwarranted statements have created a ripple, no doubt, but isn't this interference in the affairs of a sovereign country? Would anyone of their status dare to utter similar comments in our neighbouring countries ?
Faced with volleys of complaints against the investment proposal, and the indecision by the government, Mr. Élan Rosling, the executive director of Tata, in a press conference declared the suspension of their proposal, and then officially informed the Board of Investment about it. The Chairman of the Board of Investment in reply said: "You will have to wait for six months for a final decision and Tata will have to sign the contract with the next elected government." Rosling got the same message when he called on the minister for local government and the finance minister. Consequently, he also said: " We are extremely disappointed" (12/7/06, Editorial, Shangbad).
The editorial of daily Shamakal commented: "not being able to decide whether to accept or reject the proposal of Tata is a great failure for the government" (12/7/06, Shamakal).Negative propaganda led to the suspension of Tata's proposal said the energy advisor (12/7/05 ,Prothom Alo). The Bangladesh finance minister expressed his indignation and stated in the parliament: "it is difficult to take a decision on a mega project like this in a political atmosphere prior to election. This became known to Tata, a company in democratic India, for which they have suspended the proposal" (12/7/06, Prothom Alo). What an apology! One wonders whether it is a eulogy or an epitaph.
The National Committee for protection of oil, gas, and mineral resources emphatically stated that by fairly seaking about the foreign investment by Tata and Asia Energy, no wrong signal is being given. In fact, it has merely flashed the blipping-yellow light: take heed. Foreign investment that is detrimental to national development, threatens energy security, renders vast arable land to destruction, along with open pit mining, is not welcome in this country.
To recapitulate, it may be mentioned here that the discussions of the expert committee, set up by the government, on the initial proposal ended without any conclusion and Tata went back. In the said discussions, there was no indication that the government would consider a revised proposal .Yet Tata came back with a revised proposal. The reasons for breaking of the initial negotiations have not been recorded.
Interestingly, it also transpires that no minutes of the discussions had been made. The experts who contributed significantly to these meetings were conspicuously absent during consideration of the revised proposal. The committee, under the leadership of the industries minister would deal with the recommendations of the secretaries committee and frame recommendations thereon which might be placed before the cabinet of ministers for approval. Under these circumstances, the people are getting more suspicious about the real intention of the government. The rumour is that if a vicious circle within the government was not interested in gaining from corruption then there was no need to conceal the proposal of Tata from the people of the country. If there would have been adequate scope to examine the proposal, and evaluate its pros and cons, then there would have been no need for phrases like 'emergence of new horizon,' 'win-win for both the parties,' 'best proposal of the century,' and so on.
No one is apparently serious enough to encourage the policy planners of Bangladesh and Tata to work towards a course which recognizes the importance of such an investment proposal to the future of all of us -- a course which above all should propel us to seek a peaceful and just settlement of conflicting viewpoints.
The government also has failed to take the main stakeholders (the citizens of Bangladesh) into confidence but they could neither stop the debate nor blockade it to continue in an uncertain direction. Such an attitude is likely to do irrevocable and permanent damage to any investment package. Harangue cannot be harbinger for development.
Let's now review how and where the tensions have been built. BOI is apparently becoming impatient and exceedingly nervous about the complexity of the proposed investment . People are now convinced that the government had brought its energy crisis on itself by mismanagement of energy policy and it is likely now to draw the crisis to a long drawn affair. The proposed stand-alone policy on coal, highlighting export is unacceptable. Tata's investment package based on scarce natural gas of Bangladesh would hurt heavily the economy of Bangladesh. We appreciate the role of media. It has exposed the verbal battle between the people and the BOI with zeal and dedication. People, at times, found themselves awash in a tidal wave of conflicting opinions, mostly coming from the BOI. Some, however, commented that the conflicting opinions were not real but had been created by an axis for an unknown objective. Some even maintained, it had been contrived by the government to divert attention from other irresponsible policy options. Indeed, the government has not responded to the people's demands for action.
The people's movement on the subject will continue, as was done in the past to stop gas export, till the time existing investment proposal of Tata is formally respondend; export of coal, gas or any such product necessary for national need are banned through enactment of law ; and the conspiracies to handover these energy resources to the foreigners are unearthed and those involved with inappropriate dealings are stopped in their track forthwith.
Tisco's SEZ proposal faces storm of protests
Statesman News Service
BERHAMPUR, Sept. 21: The plan by Tisco (Tata Iron & Steel Co.) to set up an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) near Gopalpur port has run into rough weather as questions on whether the area acquired for a particular purpose can be used for another are being raised in several quarters.
The Tisco's proposed SEZ will come up on the land it had acquired in the nineties for establishing a steel plant. But the steel plant project never took off. The big question being asked now is whether the land acquired for steel plant project be reused for the SEZ. The environmentalists and the traditional fishermen also stand in the way of Tisco project.
A case filed by Gana Sangram Samity, which spearheaded the anti-Tisco agitation in Ganjam district, is still pending in the court of law where the Samity had prayed for the return of land to the displaced families.
Mr Prafulla Samantra, the convener of Lokshakti Abhiyan, according to law, over 3,400 acres of land the Tisco had acquired shall not remain with the company as Tisco had failed to utilise the land for the purpose it was acquired as mentioned in the MoU.
His organisation also mulls over approaching the court to restrict the Tisco from using the land acquired by it for establishing steel plant for any other purpose. He alleged that there were 87 oustee families from villages such as Chamakhandi, Kalipalli, Paikapada and Badaputi who had not yet got their compensation for the lost homestead land.
He admitted that the state government has the power to let Tisco utilise the land for any purpose other than the one for which it was acquired. When contacted, the former BJP MP of Berhampur, Mr Anadi Sahu, said legally speaking, the state government can allow the Tisco to use the land for setting up SEZ as the government is the ultimate owner of the land.
According to him, the state government will have to begin a process to bring in a change in the purpose of utilisation of the acquired land. The process will involve a fresh notification inviting objections, if there are any from the people affected by it, have to be .
Mr Samantra and members of the Orissa Traditional Fish Workers' Union (OTFWU), however, feel that establishment of any SEZ by diluting CRZ norms would hamper the interests of traditional fishermen and environment.
According to him, the CRZ notification of 1991 had undergone 20 amendments diluting the restrictions meant to protect the coastal environment.
He also added that Swaminathan Committee recommendations had further diluted the CRZ regulations. Thes committee never took the opinion of traditional fishermen into account. According to him, if SEZ is established on Ganjam coast it will lead to the displacement of fishermen colonies as the company owning the SEZ will not allow them to park their boats and dry their nets and fish products on the coast.
STUDIES ON IMPACT OF PROPOSED LANJIGARH BAUXITE MINING ON BIODIVERSITY INCLUDING WILDLIFE AND ITS HABITAT
Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun
Evaluation of the impacts of proposed Lanjigarh bauxite mine on wildlife values of the area
1.1 Bauxite Mining: National perspective.
Bauxite, the most common among aluminium ores is the product of weathering of different aluminium rocks and is mined in many countries the world over near 98% bauxite is mined in tropical regions and those with Mediterranean climate. Bauxite is formed though leaching of soluble minerals, so it is not surprising that mines are generally situated in the areas of high rainfall (average 1487 mm per year). Bauxite deposits mostly occur associated with laterite capping on the hill plateaus at elevations varying from 700 and 2100 m.
Mineral production in India is dominated by bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, limestone and zinc. India ranks fifth amongst bauxite producing countries in the world. According to the mineral survey in 1995, the total recoverable resources are approximately 2462 million tones, of which 768.2; 586.4 and 1107.8 million tones falls in categories of proved, probable ad possible respectively. The major bauxite producing states in India are: Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar. Orissa is the leading bauxite producing state constituting over 42% alone amongst all. The total bauxite consumption in India in the year 1998 was 5.4 million for production of aluminum and rest was shared by cement, refractory, chemical and abrasive industries.
The proposal for mining of bauxite in Lanjigarh has been conceived by M/s Orissa Mining Corporation Limited (OMC) to utilize the bauxite reserves in Orissa. The proposal has been moved by the project authorities for seeking relevant clearances under FCA (1980) and EPA.
2.0 Proposed Bauxite Mining Project.
Profile of Project
The Orissa Mining Corporation Limited has entered into an agreement with M/s Vedanta Almunium Limited, a subsidiary company of M/s Sterlite Industries (India) Limited to develop the Bauxite mine at Lanjigarh as a captive mine to supply 3.0 million tons of bauxite to Aluminium Refinery Plant of Vedanta Alumina Limited also located at Lanjigarh.
The total mine lease area involves 721.323 ha of land. This includes 672.018 ha of forest land in two Forest Divisions – Raygada and Kalahandi (south) in the civil district of Raygada and Kalahandi, Orissa and a 49,305 ha of non- forest land. The proposed deposit has a sickle shape and is located-between 190 38’ to 190 41’ N Latitude and 830 22’ to 830 25’ E Longitude on Niyamgiri hill range. The hill range constitutes a massif block of 250 Km2 hill forests. A prominent hill ridge running several Km towards NE to SE with highest peak ‘Niyamgiri’ 1516 m forms the boundary between Raygada and Kalahandi civil districts (Fig.1).
The mineralized area within the lease area would be mined in four blocks covering an area of 3.55 KM2 (Fig.2) These include block A (1.16 km2); block B
(0.30 km2); block C (0.36 km2) and block D (1.73 km2) The in situ mineable resources in all the four mineralized blocks as estimated in the mining plan is 78 million tons and 17.9 million tons of overburden. The ore to overburden ratio indicated in the mining plan is 1: 0.2. Mineral extraction would need removal of approximately 2.7 m of overburden thickness and 13.6 m bauxite thickness at any given places of four blocks. In view of the fact that the bauxite deposit in this area has low overburden thickness and high bauxite thickness. Open Cast Mechanized (OCM) method of mining with horizontal benching is proposed. Open cast conventional horizontal bench method (30 m width) along with traditional modes of drilling/ blasting or by ripping has been proposed for bauxite mining at Niyamgiri. Mining has been planned on north-south parallel along the contour by removing overburden at the top (average 2.7 m thickness). The loosened material will be lifted through hydraulic shovel or by front loaders. The bauxite will be then carried to the primary crusher hopper or dump at the ROM bauxite stockpile.
An access road from the Alumina Plant at Lanjigarh (430 m) to the Niyamgiri hill top (1150m) is proposed to align along the western foothill toward southern side on gentle gradient of 5-60 (Figs. 1 2n 2). Main road on the plateau top are laid to connect general facility areas to the crushing plant. The total distance to the road from mine top to alumina plant is approximately 18 km (Fig. 1). To construct access road, overburden dumping area and other infrastructure facility on the hill top there is a plan to tree removal nearly on 30 ha forests. The site inspection report of the Deputy Conservator Forests (Central) indicate that the total tree removal proposed involves 1,21,337 no. of trees from two forest divisions – Kalahandi south FD (41, 296 trees) and Raygada FD (80,041 trees). In mining lease area approximately 40% enumerated trees are situated while balance 60% are recorded on access road and other planned facilities.
With present proposed production rate of 3.0 million tons bauxite/ annum, the life of mining expected to be of 26 years with a sustained yield of processed alumina @ 1.0 million tons/annum.
3.0 Proposal for diversion of forests for mining
The approved mining plan outlines diversion of 672.018 ha of forest land in which mining will be taken up only on 390.26 ha. The remaining 281.758 ha. is not for operational purposes but has been included in the diversion proposals to make mining area contiguous block as required under Mineral Concession Rules.
The State Government of Orissa has submitted the proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of 672.018 ha forest land for mining of bauxite by Orissa Mining Corporation Limited.
The decision with respect to authorization of the proposed bauxite mining project is sub-judiced before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which by its interim order dated 3.2.2006 in I.A. No. 1474 with I.A. No. 1324 in writ petition (civil) No. 202 of 1995 has directed that various studies to assess the impact of the project may be accomplished within three months.
A site inspection of the project area was undertaken by the Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), Bhubaneswar, Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Gol. The site inspection report indicated that the biodiversity and wildlife in the area is likely to be affected adversely due to bauxite mining for which a further in-depth study will be required. This report also highlighted concern on the aspects of land degradation and soil erosion which may alter rain water flow and natural drainage systems.
The above proposal submitted by the State forest Department for Forest Diversion was also examined by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) constituted under Section –3 of the FCA (1980). The FAC also recommended that the studies related to impact of Lanjigarh bauxite mining of biodiversity including wildlife and its habitat be entrusted to the Wildlife Institute of India.
3.1 Task background and role of WII in assessment of the impacts of the project.
In pursuance of the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), MoEF vide its letter F No. 8-23/2005-FC dated 9.3.2006 ( Annexure-I) issued directives to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to undertake studies related to the impacts of mining on biodiversity including wildlife and its habitat in the proposed area.
Despite the fact that the directives from MOEF required adherence to stringent timeline of three months for the completion of the study, WII team initiated the above studies with the following objectives:
i. Undertake a rapid appraisal of the area to review the profile of the project and the ecological context. ii. Assess the impacts of the project on key wildlife values, endangered species and their habitat. iii. Provide an overview of potential impacts as perceived through rapid appraisal.
A desk study of documents (Mining plan, rapid EIA report and the proposal for diversion of forest provided by the project authorities and the spatial information in the form of maps of the study area mine plan and sections was first undertaken. The information base was further strengthened by referencing records of MOEF including site appraisal reports of the regional office of the MOEF, consultation with officials and wildlife experts. The relevant secondary information on the ecology of the project area, published and unpublished information on conservation values was also perused for the study.
WII team comprising of a team of scientist comprising Dr. Sushant Chowdhury, Scientist-F and Dr. Bivash Pandav, Scientist-C subsequently undertook the site appraisal during 3rd to 6th May 2006. The team of WII from 3rd to 6th May 2006: The WII team was assisted in the field studies by the following officials representing the Orissa Forest Department and the Project Authorities.
Forest Department, Orissa
1. Shri Subhash Chandra Swain, Conservator of Forests, Kalahandi Circle.
2. Shri Ananta Kumar Prusty, DFO, Kalahandi (South) Forest Division.
3. Mohd. Hanif, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Raygada Forest Division.
1. Shri P. K. Bhattacharya, Additional General Manager (M), Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd., Bhubaneswar.
2. Shri Mrityunjaya Lenka, Assistant General Manager (Geology), Lanjigarh Alumina Refinary Project.
3. Shri Y. S. Manian, General manager, Lanjigarh Alumina Refinary Project, Delhi.
The team of WII, Dehradun also organized pre-site appraisal interactions at Bhubaneswar with Sh. P. R. Mohanty, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (General), Sh. S.C. Mohanty, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (WL) cum Chief Wildlife Warden, Orissa, Sh. P.N. Padhi, Chief Conservator of Forests (Nodal), Sh. P. K. Mohan, conservator of Forests (WL), Bhubaneswar on dated 02.05.06 to get serveral first hand information on the bauxite mining project. A post-site appraisal meeting was also held at Bhubaneswar alongwith Sh. S. P. Nanda, Forest Secretary, Govt. of Orissa, Sh. P. N. Padhi, CCF (Nodal) on 7th May 2006.
4.0 Status of Wildlife values in a pre-project scenario
Based on the experience of conducting similar studies in the past, the WII team evolved a Pragmatic approach of visualizing the activities linked to the project implementation and developing a possible linkage between various project activities and their potential to bring about changes in habitat use by species or the changes in the habitat characteristics of the species known to occur in the project area. Based on certain assessment parameters like absence
presence of species in the areas determined through direct and indirect evidences, knowledge of movement and migration routes of key species like the elephant and the existing threat factors operating in the area, the existing status of the project area in terms of it wildlife values in the pre- project scenario was evaluated. The secondary information and discussion carried out with officials at Bhubaneswar and at mine site greatly supplemented the understanding of local issues and observations in the field.
4.1 Forest structure and vegetation characteristics of the project area
The project area is representative of the area in Zone 6-Deccan plateau as per the biogeographic classification and has important biological value (Rodgers and Pawar, 1988) Niyamgiri massif is the part of Northern Eastern Ghat hill ranges passing through several districts of Orissa south of the river Mahanadi and corresponds with the biotic province 6c of the Deccan plateau Zone 6c. Discontinuous range of mountains with broken hills and river valleys has terrain ranging from 400 m to above 1500 MSL. Niyamgiri is the highest peak 1516 m in the massif. The forest cover on the Niyamgiri hill range as observed in the field is dense and will fall on average cover category of around 0.6.
The forests provide several vegetation communities such as tropical evergreen forests, tropical moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous mixed forests, moist peninsular Sal Forests, dense bamboo forests, scrub woodlands, open scrubs and grasslands. Tropical semi-evergreen forests are found along the stream courses and narrow gorges. This is a climatic climax of the hill range where several three species viz. Persea macrantha, Dillenia pentagyna, Michellia champaka, Diospyros embryoptris, Toona ciliate and Ficus benjamina etc. are found. Important middle storey consists of shrubs like Ardisia solanaceae, Ficus semicaudata, Litsea monopetala, etc. The tropical moist deciduous forests are extensively found in large patches all over the hills in Niyamgiri and Khambesi Reserve Forests. The top tree layer consists of Pterocarpus marsupium, Xylia xylocarpa, Adina cordifolia, Bridelia retusa, Shorea robusta and Syzygium cumini, etc. The herbaceous flora consist of Curcuma sps, Zingiber sps., Phrynium placentarum, Hedychium sps., many ferns and orchids. The extensive hill slopes and foot hills including greater part of the region are occupied by dry deciduous mixed forests. Sal (Shorea robusta) grows at lower elevation where soil quality is better. Other tree species are Terminalia alate. Anogeissus latifolia, Buchanania lanzan, Dalbergia latifolia, Diospyros melanoxylon, Kydia clycina and Madhuca longifolia etc. The shrubs Helecteres isora, Holarrhena antidysenterica, Lagestronemia parviflora and woodfordia fruticosa, etc. Moist peninsular Sal forests dominate north-west and south-west of the Niyamgiri hill ranges. Dense bamboo forests extensively occur with Dendrocalamus strictus in better moist regime Bambusa tutda and B. aurdinancea occurs at places. Scrub woodlands and open scrub forest are found in exposed dry area where forest fire and shifting cultivation are much.
This is further corroborated with occurrence of Malabar Giant Squirrel, Ratufa indica in good density during our field survey which is an indicator of canopy contiguous forests.
4.2. Conservation values of the area
Niyamgiri massif is important both from biological richness and functional standpoint. Fortunately this area has little shifting cultivation as yet compared to other adjoining areas. Niyamgiri massif forests links forests of Kandhamal district with the forests of Raygada, Kalahandi and Koraput civil districts. Figure 3 shows classified forest cover map in the categories of dense, open and scrub forests of Niyamgiri and its linkages with two adjoining project areas – Karlapat WLS on north -west and Kotagarh WLS in north-east. The area therefore has great conservation significance and functional importance for providing contiguous forest tracts outside the protected area and for providing and effective buffer for larger conservation units like the proposed elephant reserve.
The presence of flagship indicator species such as elephant in majority of Forest Divisions indicates availability of forest in spite of large forest area suffering from shifting cultivation or Podu. This value has prompt the Forrest Department, Orissa to propose a South Orissa Elephant Reserve (ER) comprising four civil districts of Kandhamal, Gajapati, Raygada and Kalahandi to ‘Project Elephant’, GOI. The five Forest divisions – Baliguda, Raygada, Kalahandi (South), Kalahandi (north) and Paralakhemundi within above 4 civil districts constitute the ER comprising an area 7713 km2. The elephant habitat within this is represented by three notified sanctuaries – Kotagrah (399 km2; Baliguda FD), Karlapat (175 km2; Kalahandi South FD) and Lakhari Valley (175 km2; Paralakhemundi FD0. These sanctuaries altogether constitute only 10% of the ER, while remaining 90% habitats are interspersed with forested (approximately 50%) and traditional agro-ecosystem (approximately 40%) where subsistence farming is still practiced without much modern involved technology.
According to the estimation of elephants in May 2002, there are 179 elephants in the proposed Elephant Reserve covering areas of five forest divisions. The crude density of elephant in the Reserve is very low around 0.02/km2. Though there is no comprehensive assessment undertaken for crop depredation by elephants in this area yet human casualty in terms of conflict is low as per the report available 6 persons became the victim of elephant kill between the years 2002 to 2004. Elephants in south Orissa will not have any future unless integrated landscape conservation is planned by securing South Orissa Elephant Reserve and protecting crucial habitat linking corridors. There are large number of other endangered wildlife in the region that are represented by tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wolf, pangolin, palm civet, gaur, giant squirrel, mouse deer, barking deer, four horned antelope, sambar etc. Their future conservation prospects are directly linked to landscape level conservation that is critically conditioned by integration of protected areas and establishment of corridors. Landscape integration through constitution of ER will also be especially essential to this area as shifting cultivation is major decimating factor for forest and wildlife values.
4.3. Specialized habitats represented in the project area
Niyamgiri hill range has some special wildlife habitat in forms of hill plateaus where laterite
bauxite are principal minerals. This high plateaus are covered with grasses with stunted trees and shrubs. The dominating plant community in this plateau consists of grasslands of Cymbopogon martini in association with Themeda laxa, T. aurundinacea, Phoenix acalis, etc. Few stunted trees like Shorea robusta, Buchanania lanzan, Emblica officinalis and Syzygium cumini are found sporadically. In the EIA report of Lanjigarh Bauxite Mine, these areas are defined as unproductive and tree deficient areas, not useful for wildlife and forests. In reality, however, these plateaus are very productive with high occurrence of several herbivore and carnivore species. This kind of habitat is especially productive during the rainy season when water and grasses are available for several species. Elephants also visit these areas during rainy season when grasses are abundantly found in this area. These areas are also breeding and fawning ground for four horned antelope, barking deer and several other species.
The biodiversity, wildlife and habitat values can not be accounted in isolation without taking natural water distribution and their influences on them. Niyamgiri hills are source of the Vansadhara and Nagaveli rivers. Nearly 36 streams originate all around the Niyamgiri hill. Majority of the streams are originating from lowermost control of the Bauxite layer. It is believed that the Bauxite layer which is formed through leaching also acts as a layer for imbibing water and releasing it’s slowly throughout the year. It is anticipated that the removal of this layer of bauxite will impact ground waters in the region, and consequently the quality of forested habitats.
4.4. Animal presence and habitat use of the project area by wildlife species.
From 4th to 6th May 2006, the WII team undertook a rapid wildlife assessment in and around the Niyamgiri hills. For assessment of animal occupancy and utilization of the area by these animal, 14 circular plots of f10.3 m size in four plateau blocks –A (5 plot); B (3 plot); C (3 plots) and D (3 plots) were laid in the study area during the month of May. The table presented below shows the pellet density index as indirect signs of several animals utilizing the habitat in the mineralized plateau. As all these blocs were close to each other, the variation in the pellet density indices was due to habitat variables in term of grass conditions and aspects.
The pellet densities of various wildlife species indicate their moderate to high use in all the four plateaus. Indirect evidences of herbivores presence were also recorded based on several tree posts that were used by herbivores for antler rubbing. A large number of porcupine digging signs were also recorded from all the mineralized plateaus. From the outside areas of the investigated plots, scats of sloth bear were also recorded.
The data provided by the officials of Kalahandi (South) forest Division and Rayagada Forest Division also indicated presence of tiger, leopared and elephants in Niyamgiri and Khambesi RF. In January 2004, five tigers
leopards pugmarks were recorded in Biswanathpur Range including one in Kidding RF of Kalahandi (South) Forest Division. On 25th April 2005, 23 elephants were sighted in Biswanathpur Range that includes Niyamgiri RF and Benbhata RF.
During monitoring of tiger, co-predator and herbivore estimation from 18.01.2006 to 23.01.2006 in Niyamgiri RF, Pugmarks of leopard and leopard with cub, sloth bear and hyena have been recorded as reported by DFO, Kalahandi (South) Forest Division. Sings of tiger pugmarks were also recorded in Raul-Jhimiri RF of Biswanathpur Range. Besides that there were sightings of male and female sambars, barking deer, porcupine and rhesus monkeys in and around Niyamgiri areas. The ACF, Raygada also reported presence of bear, wolf in Paligaon beat and a group of twelve elephants in Potangipadar beat of
K. Singhpur range falling in Nimagiri PRF. In Raygada division a leopard and wolf pugmarks are also recorded in patraguda beat of Muniguda Rnage. The field tracking by the WII team on a hill transact north face of Niyamgiri dated 05.05.06 also recorded a few days old dung of elephants Good water streams, cool and moist places were also seen while travelling along the hill fold. During summer, elephant uses such kind of tropical evergreen
moist deciduous forests habitats. We were informed by the local people that a group of 5 to 7 elephants were present in that area around five days ago for which during were recorded by us. In the same habitat we have also seen flock of Indian Lorikeet, Loriculus vernalis on the top canopy layers, clamber about the branches in flowers and fruits.
In the nutshell, it can be stated that the Niyamgiri and its adjoining area are excellent remnant forests and wildlife habitat available in the region. Occurrence of less shifting cultivation qualifies the forests and wildlife habitat much better than that of the existing Kotagarh WLS, which at present is suffering from shifting cultivation, fire and other human interferences.
4.5 Socio economic characteristics of the area
There are about 7 million tribes of different ethnic group that live in the forested tracts of the region. The forest products and agriculture yields sustain the basic energy requirement of tribal people and their domestic animals. There are two major tribes Sauras and Kondh practicing shifting cultivation in the region. Sauras are distinguished in two subgroups i.e. Langia Sauras and Suddha Sauras. While the former lives on hill tracts amidst forests and are shifting cultivator and food gatherers, but he later are plain dwellers depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Marginal farming of crops in podu cultivated areas is common millet Panicum sumatrense, barnyard millet Echinochola colnum, red gram Cajanus cajan and castor Ricinus communis. Home garden cultivations are predominated by crops viz. Brinjal Solanum melanogena, tomato Lycopersicum esculentum, bean Phascolous vulgaris, edible arum Colocasia esculenta, sweet potato Curfcuma domestica, ginger Zingiber officinale and Chili Capsicum annum.
The Niyamgiri hills are known to be inhabited by localized Knodh tribe known as Dongria Kondh who are primitive and schedule tribe of the state. Daspatnaik 1984 have illustrated an account on this tribe of Niyamgiri hills. The economies of majority of tribes are forest based, agriculture, labor and domestic animal husbandry. Around 40-50% of their annual income is dervied from large number of NTFP such as siali leaves (Bahunia vahlii), Amla (Emblica officinalis), Harida (Terminalia chebula), Bhada (Terminalia belerica), Char seeds (Buchanania lanzan), Sal (Shorea robusta) seed, hill broom (Thysanolaena maxima) and honey etc.
5.0 Prediction of impacts on Wildlife values of the proposed project.
Bauxite from the Niyamgiri plateaus is proposed to be extracted through open cast operations. Various kinds environmental degradations and impacts are associated with this kind of mining. These are : geomorphologic changes, landscape changes, loss of forests; land degradation; loss of flora and fauna; loss of habitat; geo-hydrological and drainage changes; land vibration, shocks, blasting and noise; air quality reduction, water quality reduction; disruption of socio-economic dependencies and public health hazards etc. This report is restricted in scope to assess the impacts that are likely to affect forest structure, use pattern of wildlife species occupying the area and the quality of the wildlife habitats that harbour diverse floral and faunal species.
5.1 Morphologic changes
Bauxites occur mainly on the flat plateaus ranging from 1218 m to 1306 m. Theses plateaus are gently sloping at 1:4 to1:10. The mining plan proposes excavation of 78 million tons of overburden. During the restoration process, the gap in material created by the extraction of the bauxite ore will create a void for back filling and restoring the original topographic level of the mining sites. It is estimated in the mining plan that present topographic level after restoration will be lowered by 10-15 m. this will bring changes in geomorphology of the area and enhance several other consequences leading to soil erosion and impact on drainage and forest productivity.
5.2 Changes in quality and structure of wildlife habitats
Bauxite mining at Niyamgiri will bring several changes due to blasting and disturbances to the forested habitat over a period of 25 years. The mining plan proposes to have 3 working shifts of 8 h3rs each per day and 6 days per week.
Working of the mine during night shifts would induce disturbances due to illumination of the Niyamgiri plateau area and pose disturbance to wildlife species more specifically the nocturnal animal. The illumination may restrict movement and habitat use and reduce occupancy and utilization by several species. This situation eventually will reduce elephant movements across Niyamgiri massif to Karlapath and Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuaries and ultimately effect the population structure and there by its genetic diversity. Exodus of human population to mining site will enhance conflict with wildlife so to their losses in long run.
Bauxite mining in Niyamgiri plateau will destroy a specialized kind of wildlife habitat, dominated by grasslands and sparse tree communities. These kinds of sites are breeding habitat of many herbivores such as barking deer and four horned antelopes.
5.3 Loss of forest flora and fauna
Mine site preparation and access of road to hill to involve removal of prime vegetation cover from Niyamgiri RF, Nimagiri PRF, Khambesi RF and Jungle Block PF. This will impact several wildlife associates of this habitat and will also reduce the diversity of tropical moist deciduous forest mentioned above. The area proposed for clearing of trees for alignment of road also harbours giant squirrel a highly endangered canopy dwelling species that inhabit specialized habitats characterized by closed canopy forests. Destruction of trees in the road way area is likely to lead to the destruction of canopy cover critical for presence of giant squirrels.
Inevitably, exodus of people involved in mining activities will also exert pressures on residual natural resources. This will also create interference with resource availability to wildlife species and thereby further restrict use of area by wildlife species. Reduction in numbers of some endangered species of plants and animals in the long terms will be eminent and unavoidable.
5.4 Impacts on geo-hydrology
Bauxite deposits are embedded in spongy leached material in the high plateaus of Niyamgiri. These plateau beds underlying lateritic cap retains huge quantity of rainwater and allow water discharges to continue at slow rate through the emanating streams from their bases. Mining on this mineralized plateau will impact these aquifers in their discharges. There will be a fear of reduction of surface and ground water discharges in Vansadhara and Nagaveli rivers. This will eventually make the habitat drier and reduce its potential for productivity and biodiversity.
5.5. Long term impacts to conservation prospects
The importance of Niyamgiri massif forests with little shifting cultivation and better vegetation cover therefore assumes a greater role on the landscape as repository of biodiversity, forests and wildlife for their interactions and dispersal to the adjoining areas. The threats posed by the proposed project to this important ecosystem will lead to irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area. The cost benefit ratio projected for the mining project is 1: 4.377. This does not account for non use values of the forests.
This cost benefit value should not only take into account the material benefits of bauxite ore mining over a period of 26 years but should take into account the perpetuity of the resources and ecosystem services that would be provided by these forest in the future Compromising long term economic return therefore can not be an alternative for short term gains.
6.0 Constraints in assessment and project planning
1. The rapid assessment for biodiversity, forests and wildlife was carried out in summer month of May when diversity and productivity of bio-resources are less and unevenly distributed. An assessment period to cover the seasonally of events like migration, breeding and the phonology of the floral species is desirable for true assessment of the status of wildlife values of the area.
2. The assessment team could not take proper comprehensive view of current and future bauxite mining in the region in absence of prospected bauxite resources map in South Orissa.
3. The team however, has been informed that there are several large bauxite deposits that are occurring in the non-forest areas of Kalahandi and Raygada districts. Why the feasibility of exploration and exploitation of bauxite reserves have not been assessed for proposing bauxite mining in such areas and instead the reserves falling in sensitive habitats in the RFs
PF and other sensitive habitats of conservation importance are being increasingly preferred?
4. The landscape integrity the terms of biodiversity, forests and wildlife in the region can only be planned and ensured by undertaking strategic planning for future bauxite mining in the region.
Ministry of Environment & Forest had issued directives to the Wildlife Institute of India to undertake studies related to the impacts of mining on biodiversity including wildlife and its habitat in the proposed Bauxite Mining area at Lanjigarh, Kalahandi as per the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee. Two experts from WII visited the area and submitted their report to MoEF.
EPG, Orissa has reproduced that report for wider circulation. In the original report, some wild animals’ photographs are placed in the report. Secondly, in the original report they have placed photograph of dense vegetation canopy of Niyamgiri hills in the cover page. As we don’t have the photograph which they have placed in the cover page as well as inside the report, we have used the photograph available with us in the cover page. Further, we have also used the WII logo at the bottom of the first page, which has downloaded from their web site. In the original report they have placed same logo at the bottom of the first page. We have tried our level best to reproduce the contents of the original report.
Orissa OKs 11 thermal power projects
BUBANESHWAR, India (Reuters)
20th September 2006
The Orissa government on Wednesday cleared 11 thermal power projects with a total capacity of 15,920 megawatt, entailing an investment of about 625 billion rupees.
The projects cleared include those of Reliance Energy Limited, CESC Ltd., Tata Power Company Limited and Sterlite Energy Private Limited, the eastern state's energy minister, Suryo Patro, told reporters.
Reliance Energy plans to set up a 4,000 MW thermal power plant in Jharsuguda district at an investment of 162.36 billion rupees, while CESC plans a 1,000 MW plant at a cost of 40.42 billion rupees.
Tata Power plans to set up a 1,000 MW plant, while Sterlite Energy will set up a 2,400 MW plant.
The other power ventures are those of Bhushan Energy Private Limited, Essar Power Limited, Visa Power Limited, Jindal Photofilms Limited, Lanco Group, KVK Nilachal Power Limited, and Monnet Ispat & Energy Limited.
The memorandum of understanding for the projects would be signed on Sept. 26, Patro said.
The companies will offer 25 percent of the power generated by them to the state and will pay the state 6 paisa per unit of power sold outside. The state will purchase the extra power beyond 80 percent plant load factor at variable cost.