Govt says Vedanta refinery breaches green laws

Environment Ministry now issuing a show-cause notice to it to reply within a fortnight on allegedly expanding the capacity of its refinery and captive power plant in Orissa without taking green clearance.

New Delhi: Vedanta`s troubles seem to be far from over with the Environment Ministry now issuing a show-cause notice to it to reply within a fortnight on allegedly expanding the capacity of its refinery and captive power plant in Orissa without taking green clearance.

Just a few days ago, the Ministry had rejected Vedanta`s USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project proposed in Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa citing violation of environment norms.

The Ministry has threatened to revoke licences granted to its one million tonnes per annum (MTPA) alumina refinery and 75 MW captive power plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi for not complying with the green norms stipulated while giving them environmental clearances in 2004.

Citing a series of alleged violation by the project proponent Vedanta Aluminium Ltd at its refinery, the Union Environment Ministry has pointed out that the "unit (refinery) has already proceeded with construction activity for expansion project without obtaining prior environmental clearance."

In its letters written separately to chief operating officer and business director of VAL in Kalahandi, the ministry also reminded them that the approval was given on the condition that bauxite for the refinery was to be sourced only from those mines which have already obtained environmental clearance.

But, said the ministry, in violation of the norms, the refinery was getting the same from as many as 11 illegal mines which had no environment clearance, as observed by the NC Saxena committee which was set up to probe into the allegations of violations at the site.
It also accused the company of illegally grabbing village forest land of 26.123 hectares to carry out a six-fold expansion without permission. "Hence the environmental clearance accorded to the company for setting up refinery is invalid," the Saxena Committee had said.

Failure of the project authorities to ensure plantation on stipulated area (166 hectares) was among other reasons for the ministry to issue the show-cause notice to the company.
Regarding its captive power plant, the ministry noted that the company increased its capacity from 75 MW to 300 MW without its approval.

"Whereas serious non-compliance with the stipulated environmental conditions stated so far mandate commensurate action....Now therefore under Section 5 of the Environment
(Protection) Act, you are hereby directed to reply why the environment clearance accorded to your 1 MTPA Alumina Refinery should not be revoked as well (the unit be) closed down," the ministry said in its letter to the company.

PTI

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