The government on Monday said it was investigating violations of the Forest Rights Act and other environmental norms by mining major Vedanta Resources and steel-giant Posco in Orissa and would take a decision on the two projects once it gets the report.
“Any violation of the Forest Act will not be spared. Once I receive the report from the experts, I will take a final decision,” Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh told Rajya Sabha during the Question Hour.
Vedanta is facing criticism from environmental groups flaying its plans to extract bauxite in Niyamgiri hills in the Orissa’s Kalahandi district. Posco is alleged to have violated the forest act while acquiring land for a steel project near Paradip in the state.
“Vedanta is under investigation as it has violated environment ministry norms, a four member expert group is in the state (Orissa) to look into the violations. The second company which has been reported to have violated the rules is Posco. It is also being looked into,” Ramesh said.
The minister was first reluctant to name the two companies. “I don’t want to name the companies, members know who they are,” Ramesh said. Following persistent demand from all corners of the House to disclose the companies involved, the minister named the two companies.
Replying to supplementaries to a question on illegal mining, Ramesh voiced grave concern over illegal mining of minor minerals like sand and stones.
He mentioned the recent murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in Gujarat and said while the Centre was responsible for checking illegal mining of major minerals, minor minerals remain a responsibility of the state.
Zoo authority to get more power
The government plans to restructure Central Zoo Authority to give it more powers, environment minister Jairam Ramesh told Rajya Sabha on Monday. He said the authority in its present form is an authority only on papers, and there is a proposal to set up five regional offices of it. The proposal will go to the Cabinet soon, he said.
The body oversees and enforces minimum standards the norms for upkeep and healthcare of animals in zoos through Recognition of Zoo Rules, and provides them technical and other assistance for improvement.
RJD, LJP walk out in RS
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for 10 minutes on Monday following protests by the LJP and RJD over a CAG audit report. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan demanded that a report of the CAG pointing to corruption of Rs 25 lakh in providing flood relief in Bihar be discussed. Deputy chairman K.Rahman Khan, rejected the demand, saying that it was a state subject.
Paswan and the RJD members continued with the demand when the house reassembled after 10 minute adjournment and with Khan refusing to relent, members of the two parties staged a walk out.