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Odisha tribals and activists oppose Vedanta plant expansion plan

 

Protest against Vedanta in Bhubaneswar

Posted on 01 Aug 2014

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02:21 +0530

  Vedanta, Lanjigarh, Karlapat, Kalahandi, Odisha
While putting Odisha State Pollution Control Board and Kalahandi Distirct administration at fault for holding the meeting without taking the affected tribal people into confidence, social and developmental activists said that there was no need of a public hearing for the expansion of Vedantar alumina plant as the company doesn’t have any definite source of bauxite mineral.
Basudev Mahapatra
 

As part of activities to mark the Global Day of Action against Vedanta, the Anil Agrawal led UK based company renamed as Sesa Sterlite, a host of political parties and social organisations staged protest demonstrations in Bhubaneswar, on July 31, 2014, alleging involvement of the company in several illegal activities with support from the Biju Janata Dal led Odisha government.

Just a day before, on July 30, the public hearing meeting organized by State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) in Lanjigarh of Kalahandi dictrict for expansion of Vedanta’s (now Sesa Sterlite) Alumina refinery to 6 mpta from its current capacity of 1 mpta had to disrupt midway as about 300 tribal people led by Lingaraj Azad, the leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, came in group and stormed into the meeting held at the local primary school.

The tribals were angry because they were not invited to the meeting to place their voices.

“The company and the Odisha government always do like this keeping the affected tribal people in dark. It suggest, they are doing wrong things against the interests of the tribal people,” said a protester.

While putting SPCB and Kalahandi Distirct administration at fault for holding the meeting without taking the affected tribal people into confidence, social and developmental activists said that there was no need of a public hearing for the expansion of Vedantar alumina plant as the company doesn’t have any definite source of bauxite mineral.

 

The company that initially aimed to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri was denied by the tribal village council meetings organised after a Supreme Court directive. It is now trying to get the mineral from other bauxite reserves allotted to L&T in the district. However the troubles for Vedanta doesn’t seem to end there because the newly mapped reserves are part of Karlapat wildlife sanctuary, which is also a tiger habitat.

“As the plant runs less than 50% of its present capacity, how come the company plans to source bauxite of 15.5million ton per annum for the 6 mpta project?” – asked social activist Prafulla Samantara in a letter to SPCB.

“The probable sources of Bauxite mentioned in the EIA such as Karlapat is part of a Wildlife Sanctuary and the other one Niyamgiri is already rejected by Gramsabha after the historic judgment of Supreme Court (SC) of India,” Samantara added.

The company that initially aimed to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri was denied by the tribal village council meetings organised after a Supreme Court directive. It is now trying to get the mineral from other bauxite reserves allotted to L&T in the district. However the troubles for Vedanta doesn’t seem to end there because the newly mapped reserves are part of Karlapat wildlife sanctuary, which is also a tiger habitat.

The major hurdle on the way to mining Karlapat bauxite reserves would be the process of getting the proposals approved by the tribals in their village council meetings, called gramsabha, in compliance of the SC directive in case of Niyamgiri.

So, even if the company gets its expansion plan approved, the abovementioned issues in regard to mineral extraction and sourcing are going to trouble the company and operation of its Lanjigarh plant.

As such, on allegations that the particular plant is a threat to local environment and to the livelihood sources, Vedanta is facing strong opposition from the local tribal people and a number of international organisations working to safeguard the rights of indigenous communities across the globe.

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