Archive for July, 2010
Following report is from The Samaj:
Vedanta Resources Plc, battling criticism from environmental groups and some shareholders over plans to extract bauxite in India’s Niyamgiri mountains, said it may begin mining at the site as early as the end of the year.
“All is going well,” Vedanta Chief Executive Officer Mahendra Singh Mehta said in an interview in London. “It shouldn’t take more than three weeks for the government to decide” on approvals after it receives an environment ministry report scheduled for this month.
The mine, key to Vedanta’s plans to meet its targets to expand refining, has been delayed for more than four years as human rights and environmental groups raised concerns about pollution and the effects on the local tribal community. Vedanta on Feb. 9 said it “strongly” denied Amnesty International’s allegations that residents in the region have been displaced.
Some shareholders also protested against the company’s handling of the affair, with 12.8 percent voting against the remuneration report at the July 28 annual general meeting. Aviva Investors, the fund unit of the U.K.’s second-largest insurer, said it would vote against three resolutions.
Environmental and human-rights protesters gathered outside the meeting, some shouting, “Vedanta, Vedanta out” and others painted blue, like characters from the movie “Avatar” about an alien tribe’s battle to save its planet from a corporation determined to strip its raw materials.
Dutch pension fund PGGM said on July 7 it sold 13 million euros ($17 million) of Vedanta stock and the Church of England offloaded its shares in February.
“Certain NGOs complain that the consultation isn’t complete and human rights issues are raised,” Mehta said. “The fact is that the project has undergone a very vigorous consultation process. We are very positive; it’s taking longer time, no problem. We are in the final approval stage.”
India formed a panel to investigate the potential effect of mining on tribes and wildlife in Orissa, reviewing earlier reports on use of forest land, the Ministry of Environment and Forests said June 30. It would offer findings within 30 days.
“There is no habitation on and near the proposed mining area,” Mehta said. “They are reviewing it once again so nothing is left out.” The hills around the site are about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) high and nobody lives in the area because there aren’t any bodies of water or vegetation, he said.
Vedanta plans to transfer bauxite from the mine to its alumina refinery, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the hills, through a pipeline, Mehta said in an interview on July 28. Aluminum is made from alumina refined from bauxite.
“Laying a conveyor from the mine to the refinery will take about 3-6 months,” Mehta said. “Normally the bauxite transportation is done by trucks, which creates pollution; this is a very environment-friendly way.”
Bauxite in the hills, totaling about 80 million metric tons, is 1 or 2 meters from the surface and the “best in its class in the world,” he said. “You just scrape the surface, no blasting is needed. It could be converted to alumina at a cost far lesser than any of the bauxites in the world.”
Vedanta today reported record first-quarter earnings before income, tax, depreciation and amortization, which more than doubled to $793.9 million from $354.7 million a year earlier.
Confusing report about establishing centers of the Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar at Sambalpur and Balangir
Aspiring MBAs in western Orissa will soon have an option to study at an institute nearer home.
The Xavier Institute of Management is all set to create additional centres in the western part of the state.
“It (the additional centre) will either be in Sambalpur or Bolangir. We might even open centres in both cities. This will depend on where the state government provides land. Once that is over, we will sign a memorandum of understanding with the state government,” said XIMB director Father P.T. Joseph.
He added that the institute authorities were simply waiting for approval from the Orissa chief minister.
“We are just waiting for Naveen Patnaik’s approval. We can start work on the new centre as soon as we receive his approval,” he said.
With some areas in the state lacking in renowned education institutes, the XIMB’s new centre will come as something of a relief. “The idea is to make quality higher education accessible to people living in remote areas of the state. We have submitted the project proposal. It is with the planning and coordination department now,” said the XIMB director.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch ceremony of the post-graduate programme in banking and financial services.
While the project has received huge appreciation from all quarters, the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) has reportedly assured that it would spend Rs 20 crore on the project.
State planning and coordination minister AU Singh Deo apparently urged XIMB to come up with the proposal.
Singh Deo represents Bolangir constituency. He said that the new project would bring about positive change in the relatively backward western Orissa.
“The management college will come as succour to students aspiring for quality higher education in the neglected areas of western Orissa. Centres of XIMB will come up at both Bolangir and Sambalpur. We are in the process of finalising the land plots. The state government has already sanctioned Rs 10 crore for the project,” said Singh Deo.
XIMB is already working on its second campus in Khurda, 15km from the main campus here.
“The state government has assured us that they would build a compound wall for the Khurda centre and hand it over to us,” said Father Joseph.
The B-school currently offers courses such as post-graduate in management, post-graduate diploma in management for working executives, post-graduate diploma in rural management and doctoral-level fellow programme in management.
Expressing his willingness to set up the rail wagon factory in Kalahandi district as per the proposal of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday assured a representative group of senior citizens of the district that he would talk to Banerjee to this effect soon.
A eight-member representative group headed by Labour and Employment Minister Puspendra Singh Deo and former Minister Balabhadra Majhi met Chief Minister at his Secretariat chamber. The group informed the Chief Minister about the decision of Railway Minister to set up a rail wagon industry either in Bhubaneswar or in Kalahandi.
They requested Patnaik to set up the proposed industry in Kalahandi district as it is not only a backward region but also a central place of backward KBK region. They said the proposed factory if set up in the district, it would certainly help bring development in the said region.
They also suggested the Chief Minister that the said project should be set up at Chapatkhanda of the district. They said there would be no land acquisition problem if the project comes up there.
Chief Minister agreed to their proposal and assured them that he would soon talk to Banerjee to this effect.
The group also informed that they would submit memorandum on the subject to Prime Minister Manmohan Sing, Railway Minister Banerjee and Loksabha Speaker Meira Kumar on August 18. Other members of the group include Bishnu Gahir, Jawahar Biswal, Arjuna Chand, Ashok Agrawal, Sumanta Pujari and Damodar Mishra.
Life is full of surprises as I discovered on my trip to Jharsuguda, a mineral-rich district in Orissa that looks well set for a changeover. The changeover was expected ever since Jharsuguda became part of Naveen Patnaik government’s Master Plan for cities beyond Bhubaneswar; what is unexpected is the reaction of locals. While land acquisition conjures up images of stiff resistance and violence elsewhere, Jharsuguda over the last 2-3 years has experienced a smooth transition from agriculture or no agriculture to industry and is now fast emerging as an industrial hub.
The town, till recently famous only for its airport built during World War II, is home to the likes of Vedanta Alumina, Bhushan Steel and Power, SPS Power & Steel, SMC Power Generation, Jain Steel & Power, Action Ispat, Eastern Steel and Power, L&T, NTPC and still counting.
“If you know how to take along local people with you and if you are equally concerned about their livelihood, you shouldn’t have any problem when you need land for industry,” says a senior Vedanta official.
The company has already built “Ma Sambaleswari Nagar”, the rehabilitation township for 148 displaced families and is building a state-of-the-art hospital. A spokesman at the district collectorate, which acquires land for the government, points out: “These places were never known for their fertile land. So, if the local landowners find that they actually stand to gain by offering their land to industry, why would they resist?”
Some other companies like Jain Infra and Jain Steel & Power have taken the other, equally smooth, route of purchasing the land directly from the owners. “It’s always easier to buy the land directly from the owners. You pay them the right price and get possession of the land,” says Pradip Sen, Group Senior Vice President, Jain Group of Industries.
We (BT lensman and I) get a feel of what the local people have in mind, as we get down from our hired car at a village called Bhashma, on the banks of river Ib. The locals muster around us to find out if we are prospective landbuyers. They also ask us if we plan to carry out some development work like bridges—quite a contrast to the reporter’s experience some months ago at Singur.
They animatedly tell us that their neighbours have already sold their land for a good price to “some company”. The group of locals, however, is not clear how this land will be used.
Jain Group’s Sen elaborates on that. “There will be a modern township— possibly the first satellite township with a nine-hole golf course in the state on the banks and surrounding the river,” he explains.
The township in the midst of lush green meadows also promises to have a bird sanctuary, jogging and cycling tracks, a stadium and provisions for various indoor games, veterinary clinic and kennel club, public library-cum-reading hall, space for post office and government offices, commercial complex, shopping malls, schools, hospitals, bungalows and apartments.
Not surprisingly, the locals are hardly complaining. Says Shapath Pathan: “We were working with a local brick field for small daily wages. But with these large companies coming up with large projects, things look brighter for us.”
Another local Sushil Dash seconds him promptly: “At the end of the day, what matters most is how comfortable we are with what we earn and how much we can send to our families.”
The surprises don’t end here. As we stand at what the locals call “The China Town” at Jharsuguda, we encounter a large number of Chinese engineers and support staff.
There are as many as 700 Chinese engineers and support staff from SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corp. of Shangdong, China, one of the largest power companies in China. SEPCO is building a 1,215 MW coal-fired power plant for Vedanta Alumina and this 700-strong workforce is working at the aluminium smelter plant here. “We don’t feel we are so many miles away from our home. We live together like a community. We speak Chinese, eat Chinese cuisine, celebrate Chinese occasions and we watch Chinese television programmes,” says W.Wang of SEPCO’s Comprehensive Department. There are more expats, though not sizeable, from Australia, Germany and France, we are told.
As we move towards Jharsuguda Airport, built during World War II and now almost defunct except for private jets used by large industries, the sprawling facility also offers a story of transition. Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has already announced plans to upgrade facilities at Jharsuguda Airport, an official at Jharsuguda Development Authority says.
As part of the Master Plan, the state government has also approved setting up of a model satellite city between Sambalpur and Jharsuguda to meet the needs driven by rapid industrialisation in the area.
The local development authority has reserved a 2,000-acre site for this purpose.
This township will have provisions for 24-hour solar energy supply and an eco-friendly environment. As the first flight from this mineral-rich district of western Orissa promises to take off shortly, so does the place itself.
Following is a report from The Samaj Oriya daily (29.07.2010):
A small village in the bosom of nature, Tikarpada, is strategically situated by the side of the Satkosia Gorge. The meandering Mahanadi flowing closely amidst bountiful hills forms here the mightiest gorge of India, which is 22 km long. It is acclaimed as one of the most enchanting spots in the world. A Gharial crocodile sanctuary set up here has enhanced the importance of the place.
It is about 60 km from the district headquarters. This is probably the most important wildlife tourist attraction of the district. This place is famous for the sanctuary which is situated on the bank of river Mahanadi. The meandering pace of the sensuous river through 22 km of thick forest offers scenic delights. Here in these wondrous surroundings the famous and well-recognised gharial sanctuary is located. Gharial crocodiles are bred here and it creates a success story of conservation.
Odisha is the only State in the country where all the three Indian species of crocodilians — gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), mugger (Crocodylus palustris) and saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) are found in their natural habitats. It was in this State that the Indian Crocodile Project was launched first and researchers worked full-time to generate a database to assist conservation. Starting in 1975, the Odisha State programme developed research and conservation units at Tikarpada for captive rearing of the gharial. It included the management of the crocodilian sanctuaries at Satkosia Gorge.
The gharial project at Tikarpada was the first of its kind in the country. Here, initially, gharial eggs or hatchlings were brought from Nepal and later from the National Chambal Sanctuary. Thirty km length of the river Mahanadi, encompassing the once famous habitat of gharial, the Satkosia Gorge and the adjoining forests on the northern and southern sides, were gazetted as the Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary in May 1976, with a total area of 795.5 sq km. In November 1981, another 168.4 sq km, covering the Baisipalli Sanctuary in its south were added to it. In 1989, an area of 384 sq km was identified as the core area of the sanctuary. Later, the entire area of the Satkosia Gorge-Baisipalli Sanctuary was placed under the administrative control of Satkosia Wildlife Division for some years. The experiment ended in 1993-94 and the areas were transferred back to the territorial forest divisions. The sanctuary is now under the jurisdiction of five forest divisions — Angul, Athgarh and Athmalik in the north, and Boudh and Nayagarh in the south.
At Tikarpara, gharial eggs were obtained at different points of time from Narayani and Kali rivers in Nepal and Chambal sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The eggs collected from Mahanadi were infertile. Some hatchlings of gharial were obtained from eggs incubated in Royal Chitwan National Park of Nepal and Katarniyaghat Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. All gharials reared at Tikarpara and those produced from captive breeding at Nandankanan Zoo, numbering more than 700, were released in the river Mahanadi between Boudh and Katrang.
Although Government of Odisha sanctioned more funds for tiger conservation project and stressed on eco-tourism project, the gharial project is now going to be destroyed because now only four gharials are living in this project. When the divisional forest officer of Satkosia wildlife division, R Raghu Prasad was asked about the matter, he said, “We have informed the State Government and it will take steps very soon.”