New Delhi: In sharp contrast to the Centre’s assertion that Vedanta Resources’ proposed mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills violated green and tribal norms, the state said the Anil Agarwal-led group’s plans were within the ambit of the law.
In two separate letters this month to officials of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Orissa’s Forest and Environment Department special secretary B.P. Singh said the proposed mining by Vedanta Resources jointly with Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) is not in violation of “any Act”.
“Since the project area spreads over two separate districts -- Rayagada and Kalahandi -- the collectors of these two districts..., have furnished the relevant certificates pertaining to compliance with provisions of the Forest Rights in respect of the land falling within their jurisdiction.
When contacted, Orissa’s Forest and Environment principal secretary Upendra Behera said, “Yes we have written letters to the Union government to inform them about the findings of the two collectors that in the 660.740 hectares of land there has been no claim from any tribal or traditional forest dweller.”
Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh, COO Mukesh Kumar said, “The Orissa government on 11 March 2010, sent two letters to the Environment and Forests Ministry submitting there is no violation of Forest Conservation Act.”
Union Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday said that the JV partners have violated certain environment norms. The JV was formed for bauxite mining.
Singh further said, “In view of the above position of compliance by the Collectors, it is requested that the... (Union) Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) may kindly take into consideration of the same and process the matter further to accord final forest clearance for diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for the project,“ Singh said.
He added, “Based on the report of the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Bhawanipatna, the chief conservator of Forests (Forest Diversion) and nodal officer...Orissa, in his letter dated 3 December 2009 has reported that no construction and mining work has started either in non-forest area or forest area of the lease area.”
Kumar said the Orissa government was of the view that there was no violation of the Forest Rights Act in the region and all the norms have been complied with by Vedanta.
The state government’s assertion is against the views of Union Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who on Friday said: “I can say that they have violated Forest Rights Act, without taking consideration of the tribal rights.”
“Another area where my ministry had problem was that it had started construction work in the land that belonged to the revenue department, though the project had not received clearance,” Ramesh had said.
The bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri hills is proposed to be undertaken by a joint venture between Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, and OMC which owns the mining lease in the region.
The JV needs about 721 hectares of land in the region for mining, of which about 660 hectares falls in the forest area, for which final clearance from the Centre is required.