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Vedanta’s red mud pond leaks into Vamsadhara river

12 Comments
Date:Apr 11, 2011

A crack in the western part of the red mud pond of Vedanta Alumina refinery has leaked into nearby water bodies and hence into the Vamsadhara river.

Reports from Lanjigarh say a crack in the western part of the red mud pond of Vedanta Alumina refinery has leaked into nearby water bodies and hence into the Vamsadhara river. This happened following a thunder burst on April 5.

According to Mahammad Ashlam of KBK Samachar, the local news agency, the downpour lasted 45 minutes and resulted in a huge run-off of the toxic waste into nearby water bodies from a crack in the pond wall of the one-million-tonne refinery. Red mud or bauxite residue is a waste product of the alumina manufacturing process.

A video shot by KBK Samachar shows seepage of red mud into some water bodies.

However, Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer, of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (Val), the company that runs the refinery, says no such leak occurred. Talking to Down To Earth, Kumar says the seepage could have occurred from the second under-construction red mud pond. However, this pond is yet to be used since local opposition to its construction has halted work for some months after a case was filed against it.

Ashlam says: “The film we shot shows the hole from which the seepage occurred even though company officials obstructed us from filming the damage.” The company managed to repair the crack after three hours, he adds.

The Lanjigarh refinery has been periodically increasing the capacity of its first red mud to meet its requirements for waste storage. “Work is currently on to increase the height of the pond to 3 metres for additional capacity,” Kumar says. The original capacity of the pond was for 6 million cubic metres but this was increased to 8 million cubic metres. “Now we will have capacpity of 9 million cubic metres once the construction is complete.”

Worldwide the disposal of this toxic residue remains a problem. Vedanta was hoping its huge new facility of 18-20 million cubic metres would solve its storage problem. But there has been stiff resistance from villagers in Rengopalli which abuts the controversial refinery. They claim the seepage from the red mud pond has contaminated their water and affected their health.

Following the current seepage, worried villagers are questioning the authorities on what would happen in the monsoon when Odisha receives heavy rainfall. But Kumar says this is fear mongering since there was no crack at all.

VAL chief Mukesh Kumar replies

"As already clarified, there was a thunder storm and heavy rain fall of intensity more then 150-200 mm per hour on 5th April, 2011 resulting into blockage of roads due to falling of trees, soil erosion at various places and accumulation of water. This has happened in our areas also.

A typical section of the Red Mud dyke wall as per the drawing received from IISc, Bangalore is attached which shows that the bottom width of each dyke wall around the pond is around 73M and average width of around 40M. Thus getting a hole in such a dyke wall is not only impossible but also not feasible.

There was no leakage or cracks in the Red Mud Pond and it was only because of blockage of the Toe drains located along periphery of the pond at the bottom of the Red Mud Pond and non-completion of new Red Mud Pond having a wide opening at one end all the rain water along with construction soil was accumulated in the area which has been presented as leakage at the Red Mud Pond."

In the light of above you would agree that the video clip on the You Tube is totally misleading and has been made with malafide intentions of misguiding the regulatory authorities and people at large.

See also Latha Jishnu: Killing them ever so softly

 

AddThis

We are thankful to Down to Earth for taking up the matter in time and making theCompany Authority answerable. At a time when the mainstream media
and even the District Administration were not willing to bring suchmatter to the public, Down to Earth has taken the matter.

However, it is interesting to see the company being in the denial mode while the video is right there for anyone to see what happened which the local residents also corroborate in it. I am sure your readers will not be misled by such a desperate non-explanation!

It is only the visual which says what had happened on 5th April 2011at Lanjigarh. Despite repair work, the location of the crack is still visible at the same place. Therefore proper investigation may bring the truth to the forefront. The whole intention behind this telecast was for a justified nvestigation and preparedness for the future to avoide such disaster.

12 April 2011
Posted by
mahammad ashlam

The explanation of Vedanta chief Mukesh Kumar about 40 m average width preventing leakage is plausible. However we have to see the cross section not only the design drawing but also the actual built pond wall to be sure about it. They have a history of cutting corners on safety and that is dangerous. I am not a dam expert but I have been associated with major hydro electric dam projects world wide to know the implications and mechanizations of operators.

13 April 2011
Posted by
Anonymous

Vedanta is well known for its violations of environmental laws. The pollution control board in Orissa is an organisation which is useless, defunct and deaf to the complaints of people.

There is supposed to be zero discharge by the red mud pond. If there is any discharge then the company is liable for damages and compensation.

How about filing a claim against Vedanta for the damages it has caused?

13 April 2011
Posted by
Biswajit Mohanty

Vedanta had in the past been served notices several times by the state pollution control board, including one about the fault in the design of the red-mud pond. We need to see what exactly was done by Vedanta about it. Mere showing a design drawing proves nothing.

However, what one is actually amazed at is the denial of Mr Kumar that red mud did not leak. It is not this video but it is Mr Kumar who is trying to misguide everyone, including regulatory authorities.

13 April 2011
Posted by
Subrat

"Amnesty International consulted an International environmental specialist, This expert's view was that the pond at Vedanta's refinery should be considered a high risk facility, both because of questions raised about its design and construction, and because the areas experiences periodic episodes of high rainfall"(Ref. TG ASA 20.2011.006, Open Letter to the Authorities MoEF/OSPCB from Amnesty International).

As per the reply of VAL chief Mukesh Kumar, on 5th April there occurred a unseasonal rain of 150-200 mm per hour, and bring the truth of Vedanta's preparedness for calamities. Therefore a high level technical inquiry on this matter may reveal the truth.

15 April 2011
Posted by
Prasant

Can we please stop criticizing a company and find ways for the development of people of Orissa. I am neither follower of Vedanta nor fond of reading Down to Earth. This story just came across as I too write on Odisha development. This is sickening to read all this.

This video is actually quite structured and deliberate. No contents only sensationalizing the entire episode. I hope the person who has made the video knows the rains in orissa and what havoc they cause.

I saw the video many times and I feel a fool can make out that this video is only made for self publicity and misguide people of odisha. It seems these gentlemen are not aware what red mud pound leakage can cause.

It would be nice if Down to Earth rejects such stories and promote the need for development in our Odisha.

15 April 2011
Posted by
Purab Pattnayak

If we are really serious about the 'development' of Odisha, we should stop passing off the selfish interests and consumerist greed of the middle class in which our invaluable natural resources and cultural ethos stand threatened. Not only this particular video, there are tomes of reports, videos, and testimonies in the public domain that time and again prove the violations committed by Vedanta, and amazingly with impunity. There are only a few who are trying to bring the reality to the fore for public perusal. Such smear campaign against them by self-appointed (or, may be, paid) apologists for a company that has a history of being habitual offender of human rights and the environment will ensure no 'development' to the state and its people (if they are counted at all).

We should stop equating a company's profit (that too by illegal means) with 'development'. By destroying precious biodiversity and continuing to devastate people's lives and livelihoods through environmental and health disasters one after another is no 'development'. Only those whose petty interests are served through such disasters can justify such crimes.

Kudos to KBK Samachar and Down to Earth for putting up this video; and also shame on the administration that is sitting there as petty agents to serve the company, instead of safeguarding people's well-being!

16 April 2011
Posted by
Subrat

The apathetic Odia middle class is to be taught what red-mud is..and what harm it can cause...the silence of vernacular media here in Orissa is nothing less than cri..

16 April 2011
Posted by
Anonymous

I would say it is a shame on people who are just criticising one project in which the company is bound by the SC for the development of Kalahandi - Lanjigarh region.It is also surprising that some people consider Amensty report and disregard SC judgement.Are you people staying in India and working for Amensty???

If you are true crusaders of human rights what is your stand on Cheria Mine where lakhs of tribals would be diplaced. Your hue-cry only shows your frustration for one company and least bothered about people of Odisha.

Regarding KBK Samachar and Down to Earth do you have any suggestion for upbringing our tribals from the decades long distress.We should be rather promoting sensible industrialization rather then commenting on one company. Trust the company when it says no damage has been done. I am again asking the gentlemen who has shot the video about his knowledge on red mud pond.Is he also having footage of the good work being done by the company for tribal welfare or his camera only shoots half cooked stories????

By fabricating such stories you are only discouraging industrialization in Odisha and depriving development of Tribals.

You live in India and you should be looking for development of your own people and industries rather then quoting Amensty, which I believe is a foreign NGO as to how to run business in India.

I have no hesitation in saying that rather creating and citing problems one should look for workable solutions.

18 April 2011
Posted by
Purab Pattnayak

Dear All,
Red mud is a high volume low toxicity waste which is not any more in the current list of Hazardous Wastes. So no requirement of much sho sho about this.

There are a handful of people in Orrissa which are not at all bothered about development of prevention of deprivation BUT its all how to blackmail and get more money. This gentleman after making this vedio must have demanded some money and when didn't get a penny, made it public.

19 April 2011
Posted by
Anonymous

There is absolutely no cure for those who have already sold out their heads and hearts to incriminating companies for petty gains and harbour an rabidly fundamentalist view on 'development' in which the role of the State is pushed aside and 'company-raj' is hailed as their only path to salvation. I really pity! They must also be mourning as to why the East India Company had to leave this country. Right?

We have a Constitution; respect it. We have laws formulated within a democratic framework; respect them. Companies have to at least adhere to our laws; if not, they have to shut down their shops. This video involves Vedanta, and not Cheria; that's why we are talking about Vedanta here. Otherwise, it is the same story wherever (including Cheria) people's resources are plundered to make way for profit. While a few middle class industry-fanatics (collaborators in the loot) get a tiny share of this profit (and that's why this desperation on these posts), communities in large numbers whose existence solely depends on the same resources are destroyed forever. Aren't they your own people, your own fellow Indians? Stop looking down upon traditional communities who have actually preserved these resources for millennia to be used by future generations judiciously, and not to be gobbled up by sundry companies within a few years.

Everyone knows how laws were arm-twisted on broad daylight for years before the SC judgement came out. And, by the way, that judgement no longer holds any legal standing after the MoEF order last year that scrapped Vedanta's mining project and expansion plans for the refinery. And, its not only Amnesty, there are number of entities - from the CEC to NC Saxena committee to organisations to researchers to journalists, and more importantly the people of Niyamgiri themselves - who have slammed Vedanta for violations time and again. But, what you are trying to suggest here is that everyone else is wrong; only Vedanta and its cronies are right. Of course, one is not surprised! That is the manifestation of greed of a few, which is being passed off as 'development' of the entire state.

If you dismiss Amnesty for it being a 'foreign NGO', this nationalistic jingoism is ludicrously misplaced because here you seem to be worshipping a foreign company (Vedanta is UK-based) as the saviour of your country!!! I have extensively covered issues involving Niyamgiri, and I have not come across any development work done by the company. It has only devastated people's lives and livelihoods. People on the ground do not need such companies, it's people who have spent lakhs of rupees to obtain degrees and have no skills otherwise are in need of them. By the way, 'development' is the duty of the State, not of any company. Or, have we already declared ourselves a 'colony' to some company once again?!?!?

So, you decide your loyalty is with such incriminating companies, or with your country and its people!

Try to educate yourself about the idea of 'development' from the people themselves (if they figure in your scheme in any way). Ever thought of why from one corner of the state to another, wherever you look, people are resisting against the corporate takeover of their resources, lives and livelihoods! Are they all fools? Learn from them.

Finally, to the 'anonymous' pundit - stop propagating misinformation about the toxicity of red mud, just to favour a company. Red mud is highly toxic, and it even contains radio-active material. Visit Rengopali village, which is forced to sit almost on top of the red-mud pond at Lanjigarh, and ask how many people have died of what they call 'strange' diseases in this tiny village alone ever since the pond has come up. And that is without the recent leakage! You will get proof of the lie you are propagating on behalf of the company. As they say, one lie leads to another deadlier lie!

Here is an article on how damaging red-mud is:
http://expressbuzz.com/opinion/op-ed/people-can%E2%80%99t-be-made-to-bat...

19 April 2011
Posted by
Subrat

You seem to have a lot of time and energy in propogating your personal views which are no more of interest of either Dongria Kondhs or people of Niyamgiri.

In your response you have also commented on Hon'ble Supreme Court judgement.. I am sure you are aware of SC guidelines.

I made it clear in the begining that I am neither interested in your views nor what Down to Earth has written.. I just came across this story. I really wonder what you appreciate about Orissa and what are your comments on poverty in the State. How many people die due to hunger and what you count asdevelopment in Odisha Honestly, I do not know your defination of development..

Our State is so rich in minerals but ironically our people are equally poor. Just because few people are enforcing their views on others.. for what ever reasons or greed.

If you still appreciate the poverty in Odisha through your comments, I really wonder what to comment.

Again you are talking about problems and nothing on solution.

20 April 2011
Posted by
Purab Pattnayak

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