Posts filed under ‘Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), Lanjigarh’

Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das raises Niyamgiri mining issue in the Parliament

Following is a report from The Pioneer:

Kalahandi Congress MP Bhakta Charan Das has yet again voiced on the Niyamgiri mining issue in the Parliament urging the Union Government not to give forest clearance saying that the Government of Odisha may be asked to go for other substitute.

He was participating in a debate on the National Green Tribunal Bill, 2009 on April 30 where he expressed his support on the Bill and said that the UPA Government has brought the bill in the interest of environment and the suffering tribal populace dwelling in the forest region.

Bhakta said that the Bill clearly states that the decision would be taken by the majority and naturally when the majority takes the decision, nobody can tamper the decisions taken in the interest of the environment.

Expressing concerns about the climate change, he also voiced against the relentless mining where no compensatory plantations have been done so far following which the ecological imbalance has gone to the extent of causing global warming.

He accused the State Government and private companies of series of violations in this regard saying he had recently pointed out some of the violations committed by the companies to the Environment and Forests Minister for which the Minister has taken the matter seriously and not yet given clearance for mining bauxite in Niyamgiri hill.

Expressing the situation of Niyamgiri hill, he said that about 8,000 primitive tribals and more than a lakh of people sustain their livelihood out of traditional earnings from the forest region spread over 240 sq km in Raygada, Gajapati and Kalahandi districts of Odisha which is having 26,000 plants, lots of animals and medicinal plants.

He also alleged that a large number of trees have been felled in Odisha during the last ten years and the environmental damage is caused to the highest extent by the State Government. “Our tribal people could not make any appeal before anybody,” he quipped.

Supporting the bill, he said the tribal have got their rights now to make an appeal before the Tribunal to save their forests, sustainability and future.

May 7, 2010 at 6:10 pm 3 comments

The Orissa state pollution control board clears Vedanta refinery at Lanjigarh

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

BHUBANESWAR: The Orissa state pollution control board has given a clean chit to Vedanta’s alumina refinery in the state’s Kalahandi district after conducting checks in the areas near the plant, an official said on Thursday.

 

The board had launched a probe after series of allegations made by some individuals and organisations in January this year, claiming at least 100 people died of tuberculosis over the past few years by the pollution caused by the plant at Lanjigarh, some 500 km from here.

A delegation led by local tribal leader Sridhar Pesnia in January submitted a memorandum to the state government, alleging the deaths of cattle and birds in the area.

A team of scientists from the board made an on-the-spot enquiry last month and collected data and samples from different sources, including data from local health department, a senior official of the board said.

“As per the report the scientists submitted, only one death has occurred – in 2006 – due to tuberculosis in the periphery area of the refinery between 2002 and 2010,” he said.

The team analysed the water samples from the river, streams and tubewell from various locations around the plant and found that the pollution in surrounding surface and ground water remained within acceptable limits.

April 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

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

Tribal faith vs Vedanta might in Kalahandi: A report from The Economic Times

Following is the complete report:

LANJIGARH/BHAWANIPATNA: Kalahandi has always captured the national imagination, but never for the right reasons. Recurring poverty deaths and reports about entire communities surviving on mango kernels defined this predominantly tribal district in southern Orissa for decades.

So when the London-listed, Indian-run miner Vedanta Plc announced plans in 2002 to set up a Rs 4,000-crore bauxite refinery and bauxite mining project in the district’s Niyamgiri hills, there was a feeling in New Delhi and Bhubaneswar that Kalahandi was finally climbing on to the development bandwagon.

“A big company was coming to Kalahandi… It would make the district into something like Kolkata or Mumbai. That’s how we felt then,” said local journalist Mahamad Ashlam.

Eight years on, Ashlam is a disappointed man. It is a feeling shared by Kalahandi’s elected representatives, people living near the refinery, the local middle class and the business community. The company, too, says it is disappointed because the refinery can break even only if the state government acts on its promise to let it mine in the bauxite-rich Niyam Dongar mountain.

Vedanta wants the flat-top mountain massif, the best-forested in the Niyamgiri hill range, but the local Dongria Kondh tribals say it is the abode of their god Niyam Raja. The surreal fight between the $12.3-billion mining firm and tribals facing extinction has already drawn parallels with James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar.

The David-versus-Goliath battle has drawn in a variety of actors—from tribals to environmentalists to politicians to non-government organisations. Even the Church of England waded into the controversy, selling its stake in the company last February to protest the company’s allegedly poor human rights record.

The battle is being fought against the backdrop of raging Maoist violence in tribal areas across several Indian states, which means a decision on whether to let the company mine the Niyam Dongar will not be an easy one.

The government, increasingly having to reckon with deep disenchantment felt by several tribal communities about the country’s industrialisation agenda, will be forced to confront the issue soon. The environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee, which advises the government on whether forestland should be diverted for non-forest use, will meet on April 16, after which it will submit its recommendations to the ministry to take the final call.

As D-day approaches, it is instructive to know just how Vedanta got here. To understand that question, and to make sense of the claims and counterclaims made by the company and the local community, ET traveled to Kalahandi last month.

April 13, 2010 at 6:36 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

Vedanta hopes to get bauxite from Lanjigarh of Kalahandi

January 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Amenities available in the city like Bhubaneswar should reach Kalahandi:APJ Abdul Kalam

Following is a report from The Pioneer:

In the wake of the visit of APJ Abdul Kalam on Saturday, thousands of people including schoolchildren and their teachers gathered at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here to have a glimpse of the former President

Kalam reached the Police Ground here by a helicopter at around 3.50 pm. First of all he inaugurated the Primary teachers’ Bhawan and then inaugurated the 3rd Kalahandi Utsav Ghumura 2010.

Addressing a huge gathering, he said, “I am happy to here on the Kalahandi festival day. I am delighted to participate in the inaugural ceremony on 3rd day of Kalahandi Utsav Ghumura 2010. I am indeed delighted to inaugurate the Primary Teachers Bhawan.”

“I would like to greet the District Collector RS Gopalan, Minister of Labour and Employment Pushpendu Singhdeo, SP Sudha Singh, former MLA Pradipta Naik, organisers of the utsav and all the schoolchildren, teachers and parents who have come here,” said the former President.

Kalam also interacted with the students and answered briefly to their questions. He said I am going to give you (students) an equation. Knowledge is equal to creativity plus righteousness in the heart and spread courage.

Kalam advised the organisers to launch a new project every year during Kalahandi Utsav, which will boost economic development, improve employment potential in the district. He also said the amenities available in the city like Bhubaneswar should also reach Kalahandi.

January 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Provide urban amenities in rural and tribal areas like Kalahandi:APJ Abdul Kalam

Following is a report by PTI:

Bhawanipatna (Orissa), Jan 16 (PTI) Seeking quick steps to provide urban amenities in rural and tribal areas, former President APJ Abdul Kalam today asked officials to launch new projects every year to boost economic development and raise job opportunities.

“It is important to make available amenities of urban centres in rural and tribal pockets of the country,” Kalam said after lighting a lamp at cultural festival – ‘Kalahandi Utsav – Ghumura’ at Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium here.

The distinguished scientist said those running the administration should set targets for launching new projects every year during such occasions like festivals which would boost economic development, improve employment potential and augment education and health services.

January 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm 1 comment

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