An environment court has said the environment ministry had erred in granting environment clearance to Orissa Mining Corporation for mining bauxite in Niyamgiri Hills for Vedanta Resources.
The corporation was given the clearance in August 2008 for mining 1 million tonnes of bauxite for Vedanta Resources’ aluminum refinery in Kalahandi district of Orissa.
The clearance was granted on the basis of an environment impact assessment (EIA) report of Vimta Labs, which was never placed before the Dongria Kondh tribal community for consideration.
This, as per the EIA notification of 1994, was a violation as the clearance can be granted only on the basis of a report that has been circulated during public consultation.
Instead, an earlier EIA report of Tata AIG was circulated among the tribal community during public consultation, which was not the basis for granting the clearance.
In an affidavit before the authority, the ministry admitted that it granted clearance based on the EIA report of Vimta Labs and other reports while complying with a Supreme Court order on granting “clearance as per law”.
The Vimta Labs report had studied the impact of mining in Niyamgiri hills, related to data between May 2004 and November 2004, a year after the public consultation conducted by the state government.
The ministry, however, tried to explain that it followed the procedure laid in the EIA notification of 1994.
“It is clear that Vimta Labs report of 2005, on the basis of which the environment clearance was granted, was never in public domain for people to express their views,” the sole member of the authority J.C. Kala said in his order on Friday. “Leading to non-compliance of ministry’s (EIA) notification.”
The authority had suspended the clearance and asked the ministry to revisit it. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh cancelled it in August on the ground that forest clearance given to the project was faulty as provisions of the Forest Rights Act and Forest Conservation Act had not been met. If a project is coming up on forestland, obtaining a forest clearance is mandatory before seeking environment clearance.
Uttarakhand project in trouble
The National Environment Appellate Authority has the quashed environmental clearance to a hydro project in Uttarakhand as it would cause huge displacement and damage local ecology.
The authority, in its order on Friday, said “tying the river through dams at intervals that restrict it natural flow would amount to playing with the sentiments of millions”, and therefore Ganga should be allowed to maintain its natural flow. htc