MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta's Orissa project faces hurdle

Published by MAC on 2006-08-04

Vedanta's Orissa project faces hurdle

By Sandeep Mishra / TNN

4th August 2006

Bhubaneswar : The Vedanta group's plans to commission its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, has suffered a fresh jolt with the Wildlife Institute of India throwing a spanner into its efforts to get access to bauxite mines in Niyamgiri hills.

The Dehradun-based organization has, in a study undertaken at the behest of Forest Advisory Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests, warned, "The threats posed by the proposed project to this important ecosystem will lead to irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area."

The adverse report comes at a time when Vedanta Alumina Limited, a Sterlite group subsidiary, has almost completed construction work and is planning to commence trial production from September by procuring raw materials from outside the state, company sources said. Incidentally, the company, which has also planned a smelter unit at Jharsuguda, has been struggling with controversy ever since proposing mining in the eco-sensitive Niyamgiri area, with the matter being examined by the Supreme Court's central empowered committee. The Government of India agency, in its "studies on impact of proposed Lanjigarh bauxite mining on biodiversity", has pointed out various kinds of "environmental degradations" such as geomorphologic changes, landscape changes, loss of forests and loss of flora and fauna if mining activities are conducted in Niyamgiri hills.

"The mining plan (for Vedanta Alumina Limited's one MTPA refinery proposes excavation of 8 tons of ore and 17.9 tons of overburden. During the restoration process, the gap in material created by extraction of the bauxite ore will create a void for backfilling and restoring the original topographical level of the mining sites.

It is estimated in the mining plan that present topographic level after restoration will be lowered by 10 to 15 metre. This will bring changes in the geomorphology of the area and enhance several other consequences leading to soil erosion and impact on drainage and forest productivity," the 17-page report says. On the impact on wildlife habitats, the report states: "Bauxite mining in Niyamgiri plateau will destroy a specialized kind of wildlife habitat, dominated by grasslands and sparse tree communities. These sites are breeding habitat of many herbivores such as barking deer and four-honed antelopes."

According to the report, mining activities during night will induce disturbance due to illumination of the area and pose disturbance to wildlife species specifically the nocturnal animals. "This situation will eventually reduce elephant movement across Niyamgiri massif to Karlapat and Kothagarh wildlife sanctuaries and ultimately affect the population structure and thereby its genetic diversity," it observes.

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