Vedanta fined, as Indian judge declares environmental activism vital to combat "mankind's folly”Published by MAC on 2009-05-18
Since 2005, noted Orissa environmentalist, Prafulla Samantara, has waged battle to bring notorious UK-listed Vedanta Resources to account for what he claims is the company's flagrantly illegal construction of its Jharsuguda aluminium refinery.
After filing evidence in 2006 that a Vedanta subsidiary had ridden roughshod through vegetation, forests, into a village and over a stream (see article below), the following year Mr Samantara succeeded in obtaining an order from Orissa's State Pollution Control Board to halt the "construction".
Less than a month later, however, the Board's order was withdrawn, to which Mr Samantara vociferously objected. In January 2008, he was refused permission to plead the case further when India's National Environmental Appellate Authority judged him not to be a "person aggrieved" - since he wasn't directly affected by the project.
On May 6th 2009, Delhi's High Court heard Prafulla Samantara's argument that, as an environmentalist with close connections to communities around the smelter site, he was indeed "aggrieved".
Not only did the court accept the argument; it also delivered an eloquent ruling as to why activists like Mr Samantara play a vital role in safeguarding rights and obligations broadly set out under the country's constitution.
Said Judge S Ravindra Bhatt: "The world as we know is gravely imperilled by mankind's collective folly. Unconcern to the environment has reached such damaging levels which threatens the very existence of life on this planet.
"If standing before a special tribunal, created to assess impact of projects and activities that impact, or pose potential threats to the environment, or local communities, is construed narrowly, organizations working for the betterment of the environment whether in form of NGOs or otherwise, would be effectively kept out of the discourse that is so crucial an input in such proceedings..."
It remains to be seen whether Mr Samantara will be able to resume his case against Vedanta's operations at Jharsaguda (the smelter is already delivering test output). However, the company has been ordered to pay 50,000 rupees (about US$1,000) to Prafulla by way of a fine and in meeting his costs.
Comment by Nostromo Research
Another Vedanta Violation claimed
Posted on the MAC website
30th July 2006
With several accusations of illegality already dogging its footsteps,
Vedanta Resources plc will face yet another one at its Annual General Meeting in London this week.
Vedanta Alumina Ltd (VAL: 100% owned by Vedanta Resources plc) is reported to have started construction work on its proposed aluminium smelter (2, 50,000TPA) and 5X135 MW captive thermal power plants located at Brindamal, Jharsuguda - without obtaining the mandatory environmental clearances.
This plant will utilise raw alumina from the controversial refinery of VAL, located at Langigarh, Kalahandi district. The public hearing for the smelter plant was held on 9th December 2005 at the town hall of Jharsuguda. A number of people from the Bhrukamunda, and Brindamal villages strongly protested against the installation of smelter industry.
Well-known Orissa peoples' leader, Prafulla Samantara, has filed petitions before the state pollution control board; the District Collector, Jharsuguda; the Ministry of Environment & Forests (Government of India),and to the Orissa state forest and environment division.
He claims that the village road of Brundamal, and some private land, is being forcibly used by the company for transportation. A large amount of vegetation has allegedly been cleared for this purpose. The site is very close to the Katikela Reserve Forest.
Details of the petition submitted by Mr Samantra follow:
To: The Chairman,
Orissa State Pollution Control Board,
June 5 2006
Sub-drawing your attention about the illegal construction work undertaken by M/S Vedanta ltd for its proposed smelter plant and captive power plant at Jharsuguda with out getting environmental clearance.
I am writing this letter to draw your attention regarding the illegal construction work undertaken by M/S Vedanta ltd at Jharsuguda for its proposed aluminum smelter plant without obtaining environmental & forest clearance. M/S Vedanta ltd has proposed to construct an Aluminium smelter of (2, 50,000TPA) and 5X135 MW captive thermal power plants at Brindamal village of Jharsuguda District [...]
1- The company has already started constructing a metal road to the proposed site. The width of the road is some 10 meters and for this purpose a small natural nallah [stream] has been diverted by making a small check dam at GPS location 210 48 45N 840 02 08E. The photograph of this has been attached for your ready reference.
2- Levelling of the patches of small forest land located in the proposed plant site, filling with sand, mud and construction of concrete house has already been started. The small bushy areas at GPS location210 48 46N 840 02 20E has been filled with sand and chips and construction work are taking place.
3- The construction work for the captive power plant has already been started. It was found out that the initial pillar construction work has been completed by excavating the ground up to 20 meters. At GPS location 210 48 19N 840 02 16E the construction work for the captive power plant has already been started. The photograph of this work has been attached here with for your reference.
4- Through out the site area, a large number of trenches like structure have been excavated for construction of walls. For this purpose a large number of trees has been removed. Similarly the construction work has been started near the Katikela reserve forest. Even a portion of the reserve forest has been acquired by the company and temporary boundary wall has been constructed. At GPS location 210 48 23N 840 02 43E this boundary has been demarcated. The photograph of these trenches and tree felling has been attached here with.
5- The village road of Brundamal village is being forcibly used by the company for transportation purposes. Although the villagers have complained before the superintendent of police and collector of the district regarding the use of private land by the company, their complain are not being received by the district administration.
6- The local peoples are being deprived by the company peoples to enter in to the plant site for collection of NTFP. (forest produce)
This activity on the part of the company is clearly violating the guidelines of EIA notification, 1994 which clearly mentions that no construction work preliminary or otherwise, relating to the setting up of the project should be undertaken till the environmental and site clearance is obtained.
This company in a similar case has illegally started construction work for its proposed refinery plant at Lanjigarh, Kalahandi for which the CEC committee of Supreme Court has recommended for stopping the work of the project and the matter is currently pending in the Supreme Court.
So you are hereby requested to kindly issue notice to the district administration, and to the company to stop the construction work immediately undertaken by it. You are also requested to book the company for violating the guidelines of EIA notification, 1994 other wise I will be forced to legally challenge the matter.
President, Loka Shakti Abhijan, Orissa Unit, Berhampur- 760005
Copy for information and necessary action to
1. Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), Western Regional Office, A/3, Chandrasekharpur, Bhubaneswar-751 023
2. The Director, IA Division, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodi Road,New Delhi-11
3. Collector, Jharsuguda district.
4. Shri Ritwick Dutta, Petitioner's Lawyer, Chamber 169, Lawyer's Chamber, Supreme Court