Posts filed under ‘Industry, Economy and Environment’

Vedanta University project gets environmental clearance from union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF)

Following is a report by IANS published in http://in.news.yahoo.com:

Bhubaneswar, April 17 (IANS) The Rs.150 billion Vedanta University project in Orissa by the Anil Agarwal foundation has got environmental and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearances from the central government, a project spokesman said Saturday.

‘The union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) has granted the environment and CRZ clearances to the Vedanta University project,’ Sasanka Patnaik told IANS.

‘We received the letter from the ministry today (Saturday),’ he said.

The Anil Agarwal foundation is promoted by NRI billionaire and chairman of Britain’s Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal.

It has proposed to set up a multi-disciplinary Vedanta University over 6,000 acres of land near the Konark-Puri marine drive, some 60 km from here.

This not-for-profit university, being built on a global scale, has been envisaged as one-of-its-kind institution for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines for 100,000 students.

April 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

Blatant efforts to wage a proxy war: An article on Dantewada massacre and Maoists by M G Devasahayam

Following is an Op-Ed from http://expressbuzz.com by M G Devasahayam:

The Dantewada massacre took the lives of 76 CRPF jawans and caused a huge setback to the Union home ministry’s self-proclaimed ‘war on tribal terror’. It also portends a debilitating civil war unless humane governance replaces the gun-wielding ‘area-domination’ mindset in the heartland.

Instead all we get is sound-bytes. Union home minister P Chidambaram says something must have gone “drastically wrong” and orders an inquiry. Before finding out what went wrong, he discreetly suggests the use of air power against the Maoists: “At present there is no mandate to use the Air Force or any aircraft. But, if necessary, we will have to revisit the mandate to make some changes.” But the Air Force chief says: “Our training and weapons are meant for enemies across the border and to inflict maximum lethality. We cannot do this on our own people.” The army chief too says it is not wise to deploy the army against Naxalites. Defence minister A K Antony rules out direct deployment of armed forces.

Pushed on the back foot, Chidambaram offers to resign, which as expected is rejected by the prime minister. The BJP spokesperson says Chidambaram has been entrusted with the nation’s security and the responsibility is his. They want him to ‘face boldly the situation which has arisen.’ Their ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is more to the point. He wants Chidambaram to work more and speak less and control his ‘tone and tenor’.

As for Chidambaram, if the Maoists believe in shooting their way to revolutionary glory, he seems to believe he can rein them in by shooting off his mouth and jumping the gun with his thoughtless rhetoric. When he visited Lalgarh on April 4, everyone expected a series of confidence-boosting measures. But he tried to pass the buck to the state government. For good measure, he added that the Maoists were “cowards hiding in jungles” and fixed a three-year timeframe for their elimination. The Maoists hit back with a vengeance within 48 hours, butchering 76 security personnel. A rattled Chidambaram hurriedly termed the Maoists ‘savage’ as if the whole issued hinged on the adjectives he chose.

He did not even spare army chief general V K Singh who had said in good faith that the massacre was perhaps due to inadequate training and orientation. One need not be a top-notch commando, as the general was in his younger days, to say this. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of jungle warfare would say this a thousand times.

Why is the ‘calm, composed and competent’ darling of India’s neo-liberal media getting so worked up when it comes to tribals and unwashed Naxal-Maoists? Why does he brand well-meaning intellectuals and ideologues as Naxalite-extremists? Why have things gone so far as to make social activists lament that ‘in this country whoever tries to fight for justice, who talks about the poor, who brings up the issue of human rights, the government labels all of them as Naxal supporters’.

The answer lies in the mandate of Operation Green Hunt — to clear the tribal area of insurgent groups, hold the territory to ensure that Maoists can’t re-enter, and, finally, prepare the ground for development projects by ‘civilian agencies’. This is not a mandate for a counter-insurgency mission in the jungles where paramilitary forces are expected to ‘fight guerrillas like a guerrilla’ and not capture or hold territory.

Then for whom is this mandate intended? Obviously for the mining-MNCs who can build their industrial empires on this ‘captured’ territory. A look at the interests of the London-based MNC — Vedanta Resources plc, one of the world’s largest — gives enough clues. Of India’s total aluminium capacity of 1.3 million tonnes, Vedanta’s share is 3,85,000 tonnes. Its 5,00,000-tonne smelter in Orissa’s Jharsuguda is getting commissioned and the company will ultimately create 1.6 million tonnes of smelting capacity there, to be backed by a five million-tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh and a power complex of 3,750 MW. Its subsidiary, Balco’s capacity will be raised to one million tonnes.

In Lanjigarh alone Vedanta has access to bauxite deposits of 75 million tonnes and the government has promised an equally large deposit nearby. A five million tonne refinery is justified provided links to bauxite deposits lasting for about 50 years can be acquired. Orissa, where most of Vedanta’s aluminium action is to unfold, has an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of the country’s total 3.3 billion tonnes of reserves. Vedanta says it has strong claims to free deposits because of the world’s single largest smelter it is committed to building at Jharsuguda.

If Vedanta has its way all this capacity will be on the ground by 2013. These reserves lie under the tribal forestland. It all depends whether Chidambaram can secure and deliver this land, a task he has taken upon himself and for the purpose declared a state-of-war.

The fact that Chidambaram had a close relationship with Vedanta raises serious concerns about the motive, agenda and mandate of this ‘war on tribal terror’. In 2003, he represented Sterlite Industries (a group company) before the Bombay High Court, when it faced charges of avoiding customs duties and tax evasion. Shortly afterwards, Chidambaram became a director on the board of Vedanta and only surrendered this job on May 22, 2004 — a day before taking up the position of finance minister at the Centre.

With an orchestrated neo-liberal media baying for ‘full-scale war’, area-domination operations have restarted. This time around it is the commandos of the Special Action Force who have been specially trained to fight Naxals. And the tribals are fleeing their villages. The question is: With such a blatant and high-level ‘conflict of interest’ does the home ministry have any moral authority to pursue this proxy-war?(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

April 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm 1 comment

Have an extra holiday, says power-starved Orissa state government

Following is a report by IANS published in  http://www.thaindian.com:

Bhubaneswar, Feb 25 (IANS) Faced with an acute shortage of power, the Orissa government is planning to tell factory and office managements to take off for an extra day every week, an official said Thursday.

There is a severe drop in power production in Orissa mainly due to dip in water level in hydro-power units (reservoirs) following erratic rainfall last year. Though the state is trying to shore up the shortfall by sourcing power from captive power plants of private companies, technical snags have acted as deterrents.

“We used to source power from Sterlite Industries, Vedanta and Bhusan. But all three units have developed technical snags at the same time, hitting power production. Hence, we are not getting the 400-500 MW of power we used to get from them,” a senior official of the state energy department said.

To overcome the problem, the Orissa government is going to ask industries and business houses to have an extra holiday each week, the official said, adding that it would save about 200 MW of power every day.

“We are planning to implement power holiday in industries and big business houses once a week. It would save us electricity. The notification in this regard would be announced soon,” he said.

April 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Indian govt team visiting mining site of Niyamgiri hills to probe land grab charge against Vedanta

Following is a report by IANS published in Yahoo India News:

Bhubaneswar, Jan 30 (IANS) A central team is visiting a mining site in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills to probe the allegation against British mining major Vedanta that it had grabbed forest land, officials said Saturday.

The union ministry of environment and forests team, led by senior official Usha Ramnath, visited Niyamgiri hill in the district of Kalahandi and inspected the site to find out if the mining major has flouted government guidelines, district collector R. Santhanagopalan told IANS.

The two-member team that arrived in the state Thursday is expected to hold discussions with local tribals and officials before departing for New Delhi Monday, he said.

It is the second union forest and environment ministry team to visit the site in the past one month in the wake of allegations that the company had carried out construction work on government land in violation of ministry guidelines.

Vedanta Alumina, part of the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc, has built an alumina refinery at an investment of $800 million at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, where production has already started.

The firm, which is currently sourcing bauxite from other states at market rates, said mining permission in the hills was essential for it to reduce cost of production.

The project to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills – held sacred by the locals and awaiting central nod – has been vehemently opposed by residents and social activists.

A state investigating team had conducted a probe in November in the same site, some 600 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, and said it did not find any illegal construction activities by the company.

‘The construction was done in non-forest area which the government has already handed over to the firm, and it is not unlawful,’ Santhanagopalan, who had led the state government team, said.

‘There was no construction by the firm either found in the mining lease area or outside of the plant area,’ he said.

The union forest and environment ministry teams have however not revealed their findings.

January 30, 2010 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Vedanta Group has done nothing for the peripheral development of Lanjigarh, Kalahandi

Following is a report from The Pioneer:

The people of Lanjigarh on Sunday met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and said the Vedanta Group has done nothing for the peripheral development of the plant site in Lanjigarh. “Earlier, we had supported the company. But we started opposing the company as local people are not getting any benefits. Only 12 people from our areas have got appointment,” said Nirmal Samal, a social activist from the area.

A villager Prafulla Majhi said how his family had given 10 acres of lands but no employment was given to the family. “They gave Rs 10 lakh to us. We divided the money among us,” he said, adding that for sustenance of livelihood, one needs a job.

The people also alleged that the company was careless on checking pollution. They also called on the senior BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.

January 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm 1 comment

Centre bans new projects in four most polluted clusters viz. Anugul-Talcher, Ib Valley, Jharsuguda and Paradip of Orissa

Following is a report from http://economictimes.indiatimes.com:

Industries will no more come up in four most polluted clusters viz. Anugul-Talcher, Ib Valley, Jharsuguda and Paradip with the centre  enforcing a ban recently in some 88 industrial towns in the country. No new project proposals will get approval in the next eight months and there will be a review of the approved projects .
 
The centre’s move comes in the wake of startling revelation by a survey of pollution conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with the help of IIT, in the industrial belts of the country.
 
The Anugul – Talcher Industrial town in Orissa stands at seventh among the top 10 most polluted towns of the country and ahead of all other industrial towns in Orissa,
 
Ib Valley is placed at 28th while Jharsuguda in 33rd and Paradip in 44th Position.
 
The industrial pollution index reveals that the pollution magnitude in Anugul. Talchar records 82.09 while 74 in Ib Valley, 73.34 in Jharsuguda and 69.26 in Paradip.Anugul-Talchar Industrial town has recorded the magnitude of air pollution index at 64, water pollution index as 69 and land pollution index as 65.75.
 
In Ib Valley, the index of air, water and land pollution is 61, 56.5 and 59 ,in Jharsuguda it is 61, 56.5 and 56 , the air, water and land pollution index in Paradip.it is 54, 58.5 and 48 respectevely.
 
Absence of pollution control measures and inaction against the polluting companies are the basic reasons for the high industrial pollution.

January 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

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