Bhubaneswar, Feb 19 (Calcutta Tube) A green NGO Friday urged the central government to cancel the clearance granted to the Vedanta group for its alumina refinery in Orissa. It charged the firm with violating the clearance conditions, and said trucks bringing raw material to refinery were polluting the air.
Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa, has written to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, alleging that Vedanta is flouting the conditions in its clearance letter by buying bauxite ore elsewhere and then carting it to its refinery on trucks that were causing air pollution.
A Vedanta spokesman pointed out that the refinery is the first in the country and among the few in the world with a ‘zero discharge system. The environmental measures adopted in the plant with respect to air and water pollution is among the best and performance of the same is being regularly monitored by State pollution Control Board’.
The spokesman said: ‘Vedanta strongly denies any allegations of pollution of the environment in Lanjigarh.’ But Mohanty stuck to his charge about trucks coming to the refinery and causing air pollution en route.
‘According to the environment clearance letter the source of bauxite for the alumina refinery will be from the captive bauxite mines located nearby,’ he said.
The firm, which is a part of NRI Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc, has not yet started working the mines, but the alumina refinery has been operating since August 2007.
In 2004, the environment ministry allowed Vedanta to set up and operate the one-million-tonne per annum alumina refinery and a 75 MW captive power plant at Lanjigarh village in Kalahandi district, some 600 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.
‘The company is running the refinery with bauxite ore sourced from far away by using trucks. Thousands of heavy trucks are operating to ferry bauxite for the refinery and this is causing enormous air pollution in the locality,’ Mohanty wrote.
‘Local tribals are unable to use the roads since they are clogged with the bauxite loaded trucks heading for the plant.’
‘The procurement of raw material by road transport from far off places, other than by conveyor belts from the adjacent Niyamgiri hill was never proposed by the company in its project report or application filed for environment clearance,’ he said.
‘This was also not considered by the ministry expert committee on environment which appraised the project and granted environment clearance.’
According to Mohanty: ‘In financial year 2008, the Lanjigarh refinery produced 0.267 million tonnes of alumina. In 2009, the Lanjigarh refinery produced 0.586 million tonnes of alumina.
‘Therefore, at least 1.2 million tonnes of bauxite were consumed in 2009. Using 30 tonne high capacity trucks would mean the movement of least 40,000 trucks in one year.’
Mohanty said environment ministry officials overlooked this condition when they inspected the complex recently.