Panel indicts Vedanta, supports tribals
India Blooms News Service
New Delhi, Aug 16 (IBNS) In a massive indictment of British mining giant Vedanta Resources PLC, a four-member panel by India's environment and tribal affairs ministries said on Monday in a report that allowing the firm to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri Hills would be betraying the tribal faith.
The report by the committee headed by National Advisory Council member NC Saxena also slammed the company for violating laws and destroying the ecology.
"… this Committee is of the firm view that allowing mining in the proposed mining lease area by depriving two Primitive Tribal Groups of their rights over the proposed mining site in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of tribal people in the laws of the land," the panel said.
"Since the company in question has repeatedly violated the law, allowing it further access to the proposed mining lease area at the cost of the rights of the Kutia and Dongaria Kondh [tribal groups], will have serious consequences for the security and well being of the entire country," the report said.
The panel said 20 percent of 8,000 Dongria Kondh tribal people live in the project area and the very survival of the community would be at stake.
In a reaction to Wall Street Journal, Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer of Vedanta's Lanjigarh refinery, said: "We haven't yet studied the report. Once we read it and discuss it with the state government, we will decide on the future course of action." The mountains they wanted to dig has 72 million tonnes of bauxite ores, according to reports.
The Rs 4000 crore Vedanta alumina refinery project was awaiting the clearance of the environment ministry for 20 months amid protests by the tribal groups and civil society activist.
The panel said Vedanta violated Forest Conservation Act and is in illegal occupation of 26.123 ha of village forest lands enclosed within the factory premises. "The claim by the company that they have only followed the state government orders and enclosed the forest lands within their factory premises to protect these lands and that they provide access to the tribal and other villagers to their village forest lands is completely false," it said.
"This is an act of total contempt for the law on the part of the company and an appalling degree of collusion on the part of the concerned officials," it said. The panel said the company also violated the Environment Protection Act (EPA) .
"The company M/s Vedanta Alumina Limited has already proceeded with construction activity for its enormous expansion project that would increase its capacity six fold from 1 Mtpa to 6 Mtpa without obtaining environmental clearance as per provisions of EIA Notification, 2006 under the EPA.
"This amounts to a serious violation of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act. This expansion, its extensive scale and advanced nature, is in complete violation of the EPA and is an expression of the contempt with which this company treats the laws of the land," it said.
The panel said Vedanta also violated conditions of Clearance under EPA granted to Refinery "The refinery was accorded clearance under the EPA on the condition that no forest land would be used for the establishment of the refinery. But now it is clearly established that the company has occupied 26.123 ha of village forest lands within the refinery boundary with the active collusion of concerned officials. Hence, the environmental clearance given to the company for setting up the refinery is legally invalid and has to be set aside," the 119-page report said.
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