Centre scuppers Vedanta plans

Ministry examining possible penal action against UK-based company

Centre scuppers Vedanta plans

While both environmental and forest clearances were rejected for the mines spanning over Lanjigarh, Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, a showcause notice was issued to Vedanta asking the company to explain why the environmental clearances given to its refinery should not be withdrawn as there were clear legal violations in the refinery project too. The refinery has been in operation since 2007.

The Environment Ministry is currently examining what penal action should be initiated against the Anil Agarwal-promoted company for clear violations of various laws.
Vedanta's controversial mine lease was rejected a day after Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to approve both Vedanta and Posco steel projects that were held back by the Environment Ministry.

Conditional approval
The Supreme Court had given a conditional approval to the Vedanta project two years back.

Vedanta, which can appeal against the decision, had wanted to expand its existing refinery in the area, generating a sixfold increase in capacity, and had gained approval from the Patnaik government.

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the decision was taken on the basis of the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee and an independent panel, headed by N C Saxena, a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Committee. Both panels said Vedanta violated Forest (conservation) Act 1980, Environment (protection) Act 1986 and Forest Rights Act, 2006.

“The violation of various legislation appears to be too egregious to be glossed over. A mass of new and incriminating evidence has come to the light since the apex court delivered its judgment in 2008,” Ramesh said, adding that he had consulted the Attorney General before taking the decision.

If allowed operations, the bauxite mines would have not only had adverse impact on the forest and wildlife but also threatened the existence of two notified tribes–Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh–who have been living in those forests for hundreds of years.
The minister came down heavily on Vedanta for expanding its aluminum refinery's capacity from one million tonne per annum to six million tonnes per annum without the necessary green approvals.

Also, the refinery has occupied 26.123 hectares of village forest land in collusion with state official without necessary clearances. This is probably for the first time a major infrastructure project has been halted by the Centre on grounds of violation of environment and tribal rights. The decision has been welcomed by green activists from all over the world who drummed up support for the anti-Vedanta campaign.

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