India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2005-11-22
By Various authors
22nd November 2005
One likely victory - but in a storm of new mining proposals
PROTRACTED CONSERVATION BATTLE
Kudremukh mining: closure in sight?
On 31 December 2005, the curtains are set to come down on the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd's long disputed mining operations in the protected Kudremukh National Park. But ensuring an end to mining in one of the most stunning landscapes of the country has not been easy. Pavithra Sankaran provides a telling narrative.
30 October 2005 - December is always a time of closure. Whether one works by the financial or academic year, the month signals the end of another chapter in history, in our lives, in the world around us. So too, this year, December is set to bring the departure of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL) from one of the most stunning and most disputed landscapes in Karnataka.
Granted permissions and a 30-year lease in 1969, KIOCL took over 3703 hectares of forest land in the western ghats of southern Karnataka to extract iron ore, entirely meant for export. On 25 July 1999 the company's lease ended, but operations did not. Functioning under a "temporary working permission" granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the company continued its mining operations, until a petition in the Supreme Court sought to put an end to it all.
In 1987 the wealth of biodiversity that is Kudremukha received a first notification towards being declared a National Park. That brought the area under the purview of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which disallows any non-forestry operations, including mining, within a protected area. In consideration of the lease granted two decades earlier, the company was able to continue functioning until 1999. The lease expiry date came and went, but iron ore continued to be extracted from the shola-grassland heart of Kudremukha. When there seemed to be no indication that the company would end mining, and when appeals to the government not renew the lease proved unsuccessful, K M Chinnappa, a retired Forest Officer and Trustee of the NGO Wildlife First!, filed an Interlocutory Application (IA) with the Supreme Court in 2001 in the momentous Godavarman Thirumalpad vs. Union of India case. Chinnappa appealed for the mines to be closed and the leased areas to be included in the National Park.
A nearly two-year long court battle ensued, during which the defense produced evidence establishing lasting damage not only to environmental of the Kudremukha region, but to the Bhadra river and reservoirs, to agricultural land downstream, resulting from mining operations. Millions of farmers dependent on the river were in peril due to the impact of sediment from the mines brought down through the river. Remote sensing imagery had also shown in the period between 1999 and 2002, after the lease had expired, KIOCL had opened up a further 56 hectares of land in total contravention of existing laws. The Comptroller and Auditor General estimated environmental damage from this unauthorized land use to be Rs 19.33 crores (1 crore = 10 million).
In a ground-breaking judgement delivered on 30 October 2002, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice B N Kirpal, Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice Arijit Pasayat, ordered all mining operations to cease and recommended that the company make its departure from the area by December 2005. The apex court had also constituted a Monitoring Committee (MC) to oversee the closure proceedings.
Earlier, in May 2002, the Supreme Court had instituted a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) as part of a ruling on the Godavarman case. All interlocutory applications (IAs) under the Godavarman case were to be referred to the CEC. The CEC was later notified as a statutory committee under the Environment (Protection) Act. The judgement and proceedings of the case against KIOCL had drawn heavily on the recommendations of the CEC which had visited and examined the mine site.
But KIOCL would not relent. A few months following the October 2002 judgement, KIOCL, represented by counsel Kapil Sibal (currently Minister of Science and Technology in the UPA government), filed a petition seeking clarifications on the judgement. The apex court referred this appeal to the CEC which returned it with the comment that it was a review petition and was therefore not maintainable.
Meanwhile, the Central government amended the Mineral Concession Rules in April 2003. Switching back to its original counsel, K K Venugopal, KIOCL once approached the SC quoting the amendments, particularly rule 23(C) which details procedures for final mine closure. The SC dismissed this request in an order passed on 4 August 2004, and held that these amendments would not override the directions contained in its earlier judgement of 2002. They also directed that the application be placed before the MC and the question of directions if any (on mine closure), would be considered after the matter was first examined by the CEC.
KIOCL then presented to the MC that it could extract primary ore for a further twenty years and needed to extract weathered ore in an area of 54 hectares on a hill slope. They claimed that the hill slopes were unstable and only extraction could help stabilize the area. Reports from the National Institute of Rock Mechanics concurred with this, and soon, the MC was convinced of the validity of these claims. Only one member of the MC, Dr R Sukumar of the Centre for Ecological Sciences had voiced dissent, stating that the action was clearly outside the mandate of the MC and that he concurred with none of their recommendations.
More was to unfold. In a series of parallel developments in April 2004, Anita Arekal, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) for the Karkala Division within which the Kudremukh National Park falls, raided the premises of the Kudremukha Wildlife Foundation (KWF) and seized computers and other material. KWF had been aiding resettlement of communities living within the park, working on conservation awareness programmes and had been a key participant in the anti-mining campaign.
The DCF also filed 14 cases in four magistrate courts against 18 persons including conservationists, scientists and even the members of the Supreme Court appointed CEC who had opposed the mining. Among the accused were Niren Jain of KWF, filmmaker Shekhar Dattatri, scientist Ullas Karanth and K M Chinappa who filed the original 2001 IA against KIOCL. The charges filed against them were trespassing into the national park and conducting surveys and studies without permission - all the alleged violations had taken place a few years before the cases were filed.
Subsequently, hearings in these cases largely went against the now-transferred DCF, and the courts declared Anita Arekal's actions "illegal and without jurisdiction" and have stayed all the cases. Thereafter, the CEC itself, in its order dated 10 September 2004 held that the raid and seizure of material was not justified and asked the state government to take disciplinary action on Arekal for having violated a stay order issued earlier. The fact that these cases were filed in several different courts in several different towns, in an apparent attempt to harass the accused, also came in for criticism. Speculation was rife that the officer was under pressure from or in collusion with KIOCL.
This September, a series of reports appeared in the New Indian Express that not only questioned the original judgement of 2002, but went on to accuse the SC instituted CEC of bias, and alleged corruption and misappropriation of foreign funds by non-profit organizations associated with the case. Following this, and with four months left to wind up, the company made one more review appeal to the Supreme Court. This time, Amicus Curiae Harish Salve advised the Supreme Court that the company's repeated appeals were not maintainable. Following his strongly worded advice, the Court declared that KIOCL must first comply with the closure order and wind up by 31 December 2005.
Yet, the company pressed on. On 30 September they once again sought to raise the matter along with another application moved by former justice Rama Jois on behalf of the KIOCL labour union. After hearing them for 40 minutes the Court in a written order directed that ".no mining is permissible after 31st December, 2005.".
While this looks like the end of the road for KIOCL and conservationists have gained a breather for the first time in years, there has been immense pressure from the political community -- notably ministers in both the central and state governments -- for a reversal of the 2002 judgement. There has even been talk of amending laws to enable KIOCL to continue functioning. Political will and a company with a turnover of more than a 1000 crore rupees can do a lot. But for now, December looks set to bring the curtains down, at least to this phase of the Kudremukha chronicle.
30 Oct 2005
Pavithra Sankaran is an independent filmmaker based in Mysore. She is currently working on film projects to promote conservation awareness among local communities.
73 FDI Proposals Approved in Mining Sector
Assam Tribune, SHILLONG,
19th November 2005
With the country's liberalised mining policy, 73 proposals of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) have been approved by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) with an expected inflow of over Rs. 4,044 crore in the field of mineral prospection, exploration, processing and mining.
Joint secretary of the Union Mines Ministry Ajita Bajpai Pande said here that the mining sector has attracted private investment in exploration of base metals, noble metals and gemstones.
More than 193 'reconnaissance' permits covering an area of about 2.7 million sq km were granted so far in various parts of the country, she said. Pande was addressing an investors meet and conference on 'Harnessing mineral potential for industrial development in the north-eastern region' today. She said India produced 67 major, 23 minor and a host of atomic minerals and the total value of the country's mineral production during 2004-05 was more than Rs 75,000 crore or $ 17,200 million which accounted for 2.6 per cent of GDP.
With the North-east having 'proven deposits' of important minerals such as coal, hydrocarbons, limestone, dolomite, dimensional stones and graphite, she said the ministry had constituted a task force which evolved an action plan for 'identifying possibilities and thrust areas to facilitate systematic exploration and exploitation' of mineral resources in the region The ministry, Pande said, was in the process of formulating operational mechanism for funding of various project proposals received from the north eastern states in consulation with the Finance ministry and Planning Commission to provide direct assistance to those governments.
7th November 2005:
Demonstration in Front of Orissa Pollution Control Board by People affected by the proposed mining of Malangtoli, Keonjhar, by Orissa Sponge Iron Limited.
Over 95 people, including tribals and women, from the Banspal area of Keonjhar District arrived at the Orissa Pollution Control Board Office at Bhubaneswar to protest against the proposed mining in Malangtoli by Orissa Sponge Iron Limited. They sat on Dharna for the whole day, shouting slogans peacefully. One of the major complaints was the manner in which the Public Hearing for environmental clearance was held on 31st October, 2005, where a staff of OSIL helped the OSCB representative choose the petitioners.
Citing the massive destruction that the mining would bring to the area, including destruction of water sourcs, air and water pollution, the impact on livelihoods of the local tribals, the impact on Khandhadhar waterfall, the protestors demanded that no environmental clearance be given to the project and that the mining lease be scrapped.
Mining away Orissa's wealth!
Editorial (Protected Areas Update, December, 2005)
The news coming out of Orissa makes depressing reading. One report says that an Elephant Reserve proposal has been put on hold to allow for mining. Another one reports the CM of the state warning forest department officials with dismissals if clearances for mining projects are not issued within six months. The developments related to the mining by Vedanta in the Niyamgiri hills are now well known. It took the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee to state that mining there was illegal - the responsibility for which is as much of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as of the state government. Even as we go to press reports are coming in of continued state repression of those opposing the illegalities of this project.
An estimated Rs. 150,000 crores has been proposed as investment in mining related projects in Orissa in the next decade or so. Most of these areas not only have some of the finest forests in the country, they are also the traditional homelands of hundreds of tribal communities besides supporting large numbers of endangered fauna like the tiger and the elephant. Shrinking habitats due to large scale mining, construction of train lines and national highways and irrigation projects have, for instance, already seriously denied elephant populations their traditional migratory corridors.
An inevitable consequence has been the serious escalation in conflict with human beings with serious losses on both sides.
How, one wonders, can a CM threaten his officials with dismissal if clearances are not granted? Why not ask for the scrapping of all forest and environment related laws, instead? Won't that make things even simpler?
In a scenario like this there appears to be little hope for the forests, for wildlife and the traditional communities that have been living in these regions for generations? Will it help to just create small and scattered islands of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, and slice everything that links these islands? Who, in any case, will ensure the sanctity of these islands? How long before these are dug up to get to the mineral below?
Orissa's appetite for more investment and for more mining seems insatiable. In the quest for getting more and more from under the earth all that lives on her surface is being mindlessly sacrificed. Wonder what will be left in the years to come!
[PAupdate is an online newsletter published by Kalpavriksh every month. Ask for the newsletter via: email@example.com]
Mines of Conflict
The Orissa government has handed over to private companies virtually all the iron ore mines, which are in some of the most underdeveloped districts of the State, leading to protests by tribal people and environmental activists.
IRON ore deposits could well be Orissa's passport to a bright future. With the upswing in the global demand for steel, which is obtained after the reddish-grey ore is put through a blast furnace, Orissa is the toast of the country and perhaps the world.
There is an unprecedented flow of capital into the State. From global giants such as South Korea's Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) to obscure ones such as Bhushan Steel, steel-makers are making a beeline to Bhubaneswar to sign memoranda of understanding (MoU) to set up plants. Their eyes are set on the huge deposits of iron ore in the predominantly tribal regions of the mineral-rich State. Besides iron ore (32.9 per cent of the country's reserves), Orissa has bauxite (59.95 per cent), chromite (98.4 per cent), coal (24.8 per cent) and manganese (67.6 per cent).
While the State government hopes to cash in on the demand for the ore, for the tribal people the mining spells doom. Haunted by the spectre of losing their home and hearth to the steel plants, they are up in arms against the industrialisation wave. Tribal people from Kalinganagar in Jajpur district to Kashipur in Rayagada fear that the new industries would lead to the poisoning of their water and air. Those leading the agitation against the mine-hunters argue that the ongoing industrialisation in the State would only create an army of homeless persons and add to the millions of tribal people displaced by development projects in the country.
According to a paper on tribal people prepared by the National Advisory Council (NAC), more than nine million tribal people have been displaced by development projects in the country over the last 50 years and only 60 per cent of them have benefited from any sort of rehabilitation. "The kind of capital-intensive industrialisation that is being pursued in Orissa will not help solve the unemployment problem. Rather it will harm the environment and affect the livelihoods of a large number of people, especially tribal people who depend on the forest and other natural resources to eke out a living," said Sudhir Patnaik, a social scientist.
Former Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who is the president of the Orissa unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says that displacement will affect the socio-economic conditions of the people and this is a major issue. "When a project comes up in any locality it affects not only the tribal people, but also the community as a whole," says Oram. He has been vehemently opposing the12-million-tonne POSCO steel project near Paradip. Thousands of people who were displaced by the Rourkela Steel Plant, the Hirakud dam, the Rengali dam, and many other medium and small projects have not been compensated till date, he says.
But, for the steel-makers and the governments at the Centre and in the State, the issues of displacement and environmental pollution do not seem to be matters of concern. With the global demand for steel growing, the Union Cabinet recently unveiled a new steel policy that seeks to shore up the per annum steel production from 30 million tonnes to 100 million tonnes by 2020. But going by the current rush for iron ore in Orissa, the country may achieve the target well before the deadline, notwithstanding the losses to the tribal people's livelihood and to the environment.
At present, the only steel plant in the State is at Rourkela in Sundargarh district. Run by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), it produces barely 1.6 million tonnes of steel per annum. In the last two years, the Biju Janata Dal-BJP alliance government signed 43 MoUs with private companies for the setting up of as many greenfield steel plants.
These projects, when fully commissioned, will produce a whopping 58.4 million tonnes of steel per annum. The State government's Steel and Mines Department estimates the investment in these steel plants to the tune of Rs.1,37,157.85 crores. Ten more companies are said to be in the queue to sign MoUs for setting up steel plants in the State.
The ruling alliance, which, in its election manifesto last year, promised to make Orissa the No.1 State in the country, is now working overtime to quicken the pace of industrialisation. But in the process, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his colleagues seem to forget that they would be handing over all the iron ore mines to private companies at one go. The areas that would witness mining of iron ore and the setting up of new steel plants and captive power plants are Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Jajpur, Dhenkanal and Angul districts, which are some of the most underdeveloped districts in the State.
Rampant mining of iron ore is already going on in Keonjhar and Sundargarh by mining and steel-making companies, whereas the government has failed to provide basic health care to the people in these areas. Most of the primary health centres in these areas have no doctors. "The people living in this iron-ore-rich belt also suffer from ailments on account of the pollution caused by the sponge iron units and the mining activity," said Sudhanshu Panda, president of the Keonjhar Suraksha Parishad, which has organised protests against the mining in the Malangtoli hills.
Many schools in these regions manage without the required number of teachers and the majority of the interior villages have no roads and electricity. The less said about the condition of the main roads the better. Trucks and tipper-lorries carrying iron ore keep damaging the roads and it takes about four hours to cover a distance of 40 km.
But why are heavy vehicles queuing up in the iron ore belt when the State has just one operational steel plant? It would take another couple of years before any of the proposed steel plants need the ore. The 70 pollution-causing sponge iron units currently consume about a few hundred tonnes a day, which is a fraction of the thousands of tonnes of ore extracted every day. A few large steel-makers dispatch ore to other States where they have their plants, while the rest is exported.
According to the State Steel and Mines Department, 15.68 million tonnes of iron ore from the State was exported through Paradip, Haldia and Visakhapatnam ports during 2004-05 by 55 companies, including Tata Iron and Steel Company (Tisco), Jindal Steel and Mines Ltd. (JSPL), and Essar Steel. Orissa's iron ore reserves are estimated at 5,428 million tonnes. Of this, 3,133 million tonnes is in mines leased out to private companies and 766 million tonnes has been given to government-run agencies. That leaves the State government with reserves of only 1,529 million tonnes.
However, State Steel and Mines Minister Padmanabha Behera does not foresee any shortage of iron ore for the proposed steel plants. Many companies like Tisco and JSPL own mines, while others would be granted mining leases to meet their ore requirement, he said. Of the 43 companies that signed the MoUs, 17 have started construction of steel plants and around 10 of them are nearing completion. Ironically, the State government does not have a mining policy despite the fact that it is about to pass on almost all its iron ore reserves to private companies. "We are now operating as per the Centre's mineral policy as formulating a policy of our own has not been possible so far," Behera said.
AS the rush for iron ore hots up in the northern Orissa districts, the queue for bauxite is getting longer in the southern belt. Four big alumina refineries have been planned, to be set up by Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Alumina, the Indo-Canadian joint venture project Utkal Alumina, Aditya Alumina and a joint venture of L&T and the Gulf-based Dubai Aluminium Ltd, in Kalahandi, Rayagada and Koraput districts. Construction of two of them has started - at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi and Kashipur in Rayagada - despite strident opposition from tribal people and other organisations.
In spite of the large-scale displacement of tribal people and Dalits, Orissa does not have a comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation policy. The State Revenue Department assigned the job to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with financial help from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID). The UNDP prepared the draft policy after holding detailed consultations with the various stakeholders, including industry groups, non-governmental organisations and different departments of the State government. The draft was submitted to the State government in July. However, the industry lobby and a section of bureaucrats are said to be against it.
As the proponents of industrialisation ride roughshod over the voices of protest, it is the environment that is in danger. Sundargarh and Keonjhar have some of the best forests with abundant wildlife which include elephants, tigers and leopards.
The Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi, home to a variety of medicinal plants and wild orchids, are also facing the threat of mining. Many plant species are endangered and listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "Indiscriminate mining would have a drastic impact on forests and natural water sources, besides driving away wildlife from the region on account of the blasting and drilling for ore extraction," says Biswajit Mohanty, an environmentalist.
Mining-related deforestation has led to a shrinkage of elephant corridors and an increase in man-elephant conflicts in Keonjhar. The district has seen 61 elephant deaths in the past three years. Almost all these mine areas are forested and are major perennial sources of water. It is apprehended that open-cast mining would lead to the disappearance of the streams and pollute the major drinking water sources for the tribal people. The Niyamgiri hills, with a huge bauxite deposit, has 32 known perennial springs which feed the Vamsadhara and Nagabali rivers.
But with the State intent on counting its immediate financial gains, the protests by desperate tribal people are not likely to be heard in the corridors of power.
Diamond Mining Plans of De Beers, Rio Tinto Hit
Jyoti Mukul / New Delhi November
22th November 2005
Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh want value addition.
The world's leading diamond mining companies, De Beers of South Africa and Rio Tinto of Australia, have hit a roadblock in their bid to get additional mining licences from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Drawing a parallel with iron ore mining, the Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh governments want these companies to add value to their operations by undertaking cutting and polishing of diamonds within the state. The state governments are granting iron ore mining rights only to those companies which add value in the state by producing steel.
Companies like De Beers are not in a position to give such an undertaking since they are not into cutting and polishing of diamonds. De Beers is only a diamond supplier and gets the cutting and polishing done through "sightholders". Cutting and polishing activity in India is confined to the Surat region in Gujarat and a few locations around Mumbai.
De Beers is seeking 12 more reconnaissance permits in Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh where initial surveys have been conducted by the Geological Survey of India.
The company already holds about 30 such permits across Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, covering an area of 50,000 sq km and has invested about Rs 80 crore for conducting surveys.
Central government officials told Business Standard that the department of mines did not support the views of the states but wanted the reconnaissance permits not to be used as a tool for preempting other companies from entering diamond mining.
"We want companies should move to the next stage of mining and should not seek reconnaissance permits for areas where the Geological Survey of India has already conducted work," said an official. Diamond Trading Company, a De Beers outfit, supplies an assortment of diamonds to its clients called sightholders.
Jindal Steel signs pact with S. African, German cos
The Hindu Businessline
Our Bureau New Delhi
19th November 2005
JINDAL Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) has entered into an understanding with South Africa-based Sasol-Lurgi Technology Company and Lurgi AG of Germany for a coal gasification facility at its proposed six-million-tonne steel plant in Orissa.
The project is being executed at an investment of Rs 14,000 crore. The company is in the process of conducting appraisals for this project, which would be executed in a debt-equity ratio of 1.5:1. The debt could be financed through external commercial borrowings (ECB) or non-convertible long-term bonds. The equity would be purely thorough internal accruals.
The gasification technology will employ latest Fixed Bed Dry Bottom Type mark IV Gasifier which will produce 3,20,000 normal cubic metres per hour of synthesis gas to further produce 2 million tonnes per annum of sponge iron.
The technology will enable the conversion of non-coking coal into synthesis gas that would substitute for natural gas.
The Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Naveen Jindal, said the technology was being implemented for the first time in the country and added that the cost of production could be 10 per cent lower than the currently price.
Posco May Miss Deal Deadline
Business Standard, Bhubaneswar
14th November 2005
South Korean steel major Posco is likely to miss the December deadline for signing of the final agreement for its 12-million-tonne mega steel project at Paradip in Orissa.
This was indicated by Posco chairman KT Lee, who is here to take stock of the progress made in the project. Lee, who met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the secretariat, told newsmen that the final agreement "will be signed only after we get the feasibility report for the project."
He added that that the feasibility report would be ready by mid-December. This is at least two weeks behind the schedule mentioned in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the company and the state government on June 22 this year.
The MoU had stated that the feasibility study had been commissioned and the detailed project report would be available by November.
Now with the feasibility report expected only in mid-December, it would take some more time for the agreement to be signed.
"This will push the date of signing of the agreement to early next year," pointed out an official in the state industry department. At the same time, Lee said things were moving as per schedule.
The Posco India company had been incorporated and it had already applied for the required land and prospecting licence. He, however, refused to disclose details of the mining lease.
Greens see red over proposed mining near Karlapat sanctuary
The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar
10th November 2005
The move by BHP-Billiton, world's largest mining conglomerate, to obtain a mining lease close to the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Kalahandi district has triggered a fresh environmental row.
The controversy started on Tuesday when the company moved the District Collector of Kalahandi with a mining lease application. The Collector referred the application to the DFO Kalahandi for his opinion.
The company in its application asked for the allotment of a mining lease area in the Khandualmali hill to extract rich bauxite deposits of the region.
However, the biggest hindrance for the company in acquiring the mining lease as per its demarcated sketch is Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary. A portion of the sanctuary comes under the proposed mining area.
The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) on Tuesday alleged that the Orissa Government has been under pressure from BHP-Billiton to denotify a portion of the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary and redraw its boundaries keeping in mind the rich bauxite deposits of the adjacent Khandualmalli hill.
Secretary of the WSO Biswajeet Mohanty, speaking to The Pioneer said the company wants the State Government to push back the boundary by a few kilometres to overcome the legal hurdles in getting environmental clearances for operating these mines.
If the company succeeds, it would be the first such case in Orissa where a notified wildlife sanctuary's boundary has been redrawn to help a mining company, Mr Mohanty said.
The proximity of the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary to the mines is posing a legal impediment to the plans of BHP-Billiton as the borders of the sanctuary are within three km from the bauxite reserves.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986, treats an area of up to 10 km from the border of any sanctuary or National Park as "eco-sensitive" where no developmental or industrial activities are permitted. This rule was reiterated in the National Wildlife Strategy, 2002, which was approved by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Supreme Court has also endorsed in several cases concerning mining near sanctuaries and National Parks that no mining or industries should be permitted within 10 km.
The Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, during its visit in December, 2004, in case of Vedanta Alumina, had also held that the Karlapat mines are too close to the sanctuary and are part of the proposed south Orissa elephant reserve. The State Government in its affidavit had stated that no mining activities would be allowed in this region of Khandualmalli hill.
The Kalrapat Sanctuary with an area of 175 sq km was notified in 1992 and at present is the only wildlife sanctuary in Kalahandi. It is a water rich area and is home to several species including leopards, tigers, elephants, black panthers, deer, sambhar and several varieties of birds. It is also rich in floral wealth and is a habitat for more than 25 types of orchids.
The WSO said BHP-Billiton has a notorious environmental track record since it caused a gigantic environmental disaster at Papua New Guinea at Ok Tedi copper mining project. The Australian company dumped 80,000 tonnes of tailings (per day) containing copper, zinc, cadmium and lead into the Fly and Ok Tedi Rivers everyday for two decades, which devastated the local wildlife and fish.
The watershed of Khandualmali hills drains towards the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary and more than 35 streams originate from the hilltop. Water from this hill feeds Tel river. The WSO apprehends that mining of bauxite would destroy the rich water source and lead to a total collapse of the ecosystem of the adjacent Karlapat Sanctuary.
* Mining conglomerate BHP-Billiton applies for lease area in the Khandualmali hill to extract rich bauxite deposits of the region.
* The proximity of the Karlapat wildlife sanctuary to the mines becomes a legal impediment to the company's plans
* Environmentalists allege the company is exerting pressure on the Orissa Government to push back the boundary by a few kilometres
* Wildlife Society of Orissa opposes the move fearing a total collapse of the ecosystem of the sanctuary
* According to WSO secretary, if the company succeeds, it would be the first such case in Orissa where a wildlife sanctuary's boundary has been redrawn to help a mining company
Jharkhand to check operation areas of coal companies
11th November 2005
The Jharkhand government has directed the district administration to inspect the operational areas of the coal companies to check whether they are extracting coal outside the given lease area.
The state government has asked Coal India Limited (CIL) to furnish details of the operational area of its subsidiaries. The three subsidiaries of CIL- Central Coalfield Limited (CCL), Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and Eastern Coal Limited (ECL) are functional in the state.
"The decision to verify the operational areas has been taken as some of the coal companies go beyond the allotted operational area and extract coal. It affects the common people who are not given compensation in lieu of land used for coal mining," said an official of land and revenue department.
The land and revenue department issued the directive and the district administration has been asked to furnish details within one month.
The data provided by the district administration and CIL will be matched. And if any discrepancies are found, suitable action will then be taken against the officials of the respective coal companies.
Considering the protests over displacement, the state government also wants to monitor the packages announced by the CIL for displaced people.
Gathering protests over tribals' eviction in Jharkhand
8th November 2005
RANCHI: Opposing displacement of tribals without a rehabilitation package to make way for the billions of rupees worth of new industries in Jharkhand, political parties and organisations have threatened to intensify their agitation from Nov 10.
Jamin Bachao Andolan (JBA), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha of Shibu Soren, Jharkhand Janadhikar Party (JPP) and others opposing the eviction, have said "peoples curfew" would be imposed in the areas likely to be affected.
They have coined a slogan 'Jan Denge Par Jamin Nahi Denge (we will lay down our lives, but will not give up our land)'.
"We will impose janta (people's) curfew and hold rallies in different parts of the state," Deo Kumar Dhan, a former Congress legislator and convener of JBA, said.
Soren has been demanding 33 percent share for tribals in the industries in lieu of land. "Over the years more than two million tribals have been displaced. The state government should have come out with a rehabilitation policy to safeguard their interest".
Other parties opposing the displacement are also demanding a share for the tribals in the new industries.
Jharkhand has signed 42 MoUs and needs 60,000 acres for the new projects in steel, mining and power sectors. Though the state government has already drafted a rehabilitation policy, it is likely to come out with it only by the month end.
Even the state land and revenue minister, Chandra Prakash Chaudhary, has embarrassed the government on the issue by saying that "the move to acquire land is inappropriate at this juncture. The government should first announce the rehabilitation policy then acquire land".
Reacting to the opposition criticism, Chief Minister Arjun Munda has asked the parties to spell out their stand on industrialisation. "People should know whether the state needs investors or not to remove unemployment".
The intensity of opposition to the land acquisition move can be gauged by the resistance the representatives of various companies have been facing while surveying land for the proposed projects.
Over the years, 20 percent population of the state has been displaced for setting up industries like Tata Steel, Bokaro Steel plant and Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC).