Press Release: SC Committee Says No to Vedanta/Sterlites Orissa RefineryPublished by MAC on 2005-09-24
Press Release: SC Committee Says No to Vedanta/Sterlites Orissa Refinery
Human Rights - Tamil Nadu & Veeranganai
24 September, 2005
CHENNAI -The Supreme Courts Central Empowered Committee on Forests on 21 September, 2005, issued a report recommending the revocation of environmental clearances given to Vedanta Alumina Ltds 1 million tonne aluminium refinery in the Niyamgiri forests in Lanjigarh, Orissa. The CEC found that Vedanta had falsified information to obtain environmental clearances, and destroyed more than 10 hectares of forest land and begun construction work onsite without obtaining necessary clearances under the Forest Conservation Act. Referring to the Niyamgiri forests as an ecologically sensitive area, the CEC has recommended to the Supreme Court to consider revoking the environmental clearance dated 22.9.2004 granted by the MoEF for setting up of the Alumina Refinery Plant by M/s Vedanta and directing them to stop further work on the project. The refinery project is integrally dependent on the availability of 3 million tonnes of bauxite ore from the densely forested Niyamgiri hills for which no clearance has been obtained.
Hinting at complicity of the Union Ministry of Environment and the Orissa Government in the violations, the CEC has written that The casual approach, the lackadaisical manner and the haste with which the entire issue of forests and environmental clearance for the alumina refinery project has been dealt with smacks of undue favour/leniency and does not inspire confidence with regard to the willingness and resolve of both the State Government and the MoEF to deal with such matters keeping in view the ultimate goal of national and public interest.
Environmentalists, tribal activists and human rights proponents have welcomed the CEC report and expressed the hope that the Rs. 4000 crore project in the adivasi-dominated Niyamgiri region will be abandoned. Tamilnadu groups said they will petition the Supreme Court and other appropriate authorities to order investigations into irregularities by State Pollution Control Boards and the Union Environment Ministry to Vedanta group companies, including Sterlite and MALCO, with respect to environmental regulations.
Vedanta a UK-based mining company owned by NRI billionaire Anil Agarwal also operates a controversial copper smelter in Tuticorin through its subsidiary Sterlite Industries India Ltd. Till date, the Tuticorin complex operates without requisite clearances and consents. As against a permitted annual production of 40,000 tonnes of blister copper, the company was openly manufacturing more than 1,70,000 tonnes of copper anodes. Further, it has constructed a new smelter, refinery, cathode rod plant and captive power plant all without clearances from the MoEF or Consent from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. Clearance was granted for some of the components after the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes visited Tuticorin on 21 September, 2004, and observed the violations. The TNPCB has attempted to regularise some violations in April 2005 by granting consent to operate in defiance of the SCMCs recommendation to revoke the illegal clearance and stop the construction work. SCMCs directions demanding closure of Sterlite in Tuticorin have not been acted upon by the TNPCB.
MALCO another Vedanta subsidiary operates an aluminium smelter and refinery in Mettur dam. In July 2003, a report by Justice (Retd) Akbar Kadri, chairman of the Indian Peoples Tribunal investigating human rights violations by the company, found the company guilty of endangering the environment and public health. The company dumps Red Mud a toxic by-product of bauxite processing on the banks of the Mettur reservoir that supplies drinking and irrigation water to seven districts of Tamilnadu.
Chennai-based Human Rights Tamilnadu Initiative and Tuticorin-based Veeranganai womens movement said: The CECs report demonstrates clearly the modus operandi of Vedanta/Sterlite, and the companys reach within state and central governments. The Tuticorin smelter is an even more blatant violation that will reveal the extent to which corruption and rot has set in amongst our environmental regulators. We demand that the illegal Tuticorin smelter be shut down immediately and a CBI enquiry initiated to investigate the complicity of the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board and the Union Ministry of Environment in condoning the illegal expansion and endangering environment and public health.
For more information, contact:
T.S.S. Mani. Cell: 9444271908
Fatima Babu. Cell: 9443404855