The Vedanta group is operating a large aluminium smelter plant and nine captive power units in Orissa’s Jharsuguda district without clearances from the state pollution control board (OSPCB).
Sources said there is massive political pressure on the OSPCB to wink at these transgressions and allow the plants to operate as this is one of the state’s two showpiece FDI projects. Over two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — the state government stonewalled HT’s efforts to obtain its reaction.
According to a Right to Information reply obtained from OSPCB by an activist, two 135 MW captive power units of Vedanta Aluminium’s 500,000-tonne-a-year smelter never got any clearance from the board.
Then, the “trial consent to operate” order OSPCB issued to the smelter and seven other 135 MW captive power plants expired on March 31 this year. The board has refused to renew its consent citing numerous violations of its guidelines. The Union environment ministry recently refused to clear the group’s bauxite mining project in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
Asked why no closure notice had been issued, OSPCB member-secretary Siddhant Das told HT: “The correct procedure is to send show cause notices, then ask for modifications and rectifications, call them for hearings. We issue closure notices only if all these procedures fail to produce results.” The board has issued four notices over the last five months. But that doesn’t explain how the two power plants for which even trial consent orders were not issued remain in operation. “I have no comments to make on this as I do not know the details,” said Das.
Orissa Industry Minister Raghunath Mohanty promised to revert after checking with his staff. Thereafter, he did not respond to calls from HT.
Orissa energy secretary Pradeep Jena said: “Please ask the pollution control board.”
Vedanta, however, denied any wrongdoing. “There is no violation of the law. As of today, we have a valid consent from the OSPCB. This means it is satisfied with our pollution control norms. Renewal is an ongoing process, with the OSPCB asking for modifications from time to time,” said Abhijit Pati, chief operating officer, Vedanta Aluminium.
On the two units that never received any clearance, Pati reiterated there was no lllegality involved in their operation.