This is with reference to the article 'Confrontation Mine' ( Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 22; April 15). Although the author visited Rayagada and made investigations about mining projects such as the Utkal Alumina Project ( uail) , we are rather concerned that he did not meet any of our project officials in Orissa or elsewhere to seek clarifications with regard to the allegations he has made.
uail has prepared a most comprehensive Environment Impact assessment and Environment Management Plan, which is supported by additional studies by more than 12 different specialised agencies. All normal steps were followed, such as presentation to Environment Appraisal Committee, providing various clarifications, site visit by the committee members to assess the environmental issues.
The ministry of environment and forests ( mef ) granted the environment clearance in September 1995. The environmental studies were comprehensive and contained all the necessary information about the project, which satisfied the experts and mef officials . Even after the clearance, uail has continued to collect environmental baseline data till date. uail has additionally started baseline data collection on siltation of tributaries to Indravati from 1997 onwards and respirable dust concentration from 1998.
The rehabilitation and resettlement package is based on guidelines issued for similar projects by the government of Orissa and has evolved through the rural participatory approach of consultation and communication with the local community.
The "collective rage" mentioned in the article does not reflect the attitude of all the people living around the project area. One or two pockets of resistance in certain villages such as Kucheipadar and Dwinmundi are, in fact, resorting to violence in order to disrupt project work. When some of the company officials were physically attacked , uail was compelled to report these incidents to the local administration to ensure their safety.
B K OTTA
General manager, uail,
Our correspondent replies:
When I reached Rayagada, I immediately contacted the uail office only to be told that "the officials concerned are not around". So I moved to Kashipur and once again contacted the office only to get the same reply. Similarly, after failing to talk to the officials, I called the Bhubaneswar office. There the reply was, "The company spokesperson is not around, contact later". I left my contact telephone number in Bhubaneswar and my Delhi fax number, as advised by your office.
Without being able to get anything from your office, I managed to get all your original environmental studies from secondary sources. I have referred to your studies in the article.
The facts quoted in the story have been sourced from independent and reliable studies conducted by various agencies. The story does not support or oppose anybody. It only puts all the relevant facts and figures in perspective. Each and every fact has been sourced and was cross-checked for objectivity.
Regarding the environmental impact of the project, we have banked on both government and non-government studies. And we stand by our facts and figures: as shown by satellite images, the Baplimali has forest cover and that the 700 streams would dry up because of loss of vegetation. It also states that the company did present a 'half-done' report to the government.
Similarly on the allegation of terrorising the villagers, a number of them have spoken about it and the official records vo.
I am a regular reader of Down To Earth , which I find is very informative. I am a geography teacher and make students read some of the articles connected with their syllabus. The students read the articles on the Himalayan Glaciers and the Chamoli earthquake with great interest. I wish such magazines are made compulsory in schools as they spread awareness about the state of the environment which is increasingly getting degraded....
Wealth of a nation
The interview with P Pushpangadan, 'The North wants to exploit the biodiversity of the South, ( Down To Earth, Vol 8, No 1; May 31) made interesting reading. It is indeed a challenge not only to conserve the rich biodiversity of the country but to see that multinationals do not exploit it at our cost.
Among the tribals and rural community, there is an abundance of knowledge concerning medicinal plants, leaves, roots, flowers and fruits. Some of these are not known even to our own scientists as the traditional use of these roots, herbs and others are simply passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth.
Whether the biodiversity should be exploited for economic benefits is a doubtful proposition as, in no time, the resources are over-exploited, a case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. A special task force in each forest department must be entrusted to safeguard the biodiversity and the medicinal plants in each state....
Should Goans laugh or cry to learn that the Tata Energy Research Institute ( teri) will "help" Goa in its resource accounting -- "a concept that weighs the environmental cost vis--vis economic growth" ('Weighing the cost' Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 24; May 15). Another company of the Tata Group, Tata Housing, was involved in a massive housing project in a Green Belt area in Goa, which the High Court has deemed to be illegal and is to be demolished. There are many more examples where consultancy is concerned: heads we lose and tails, Tata wins....
A vote against diesel
The article on diesel and its dangerous consequences 'Fatal attraction' ( Down To Earth, Vol 8, No 1; May 31) was a heart-warming and praiseworthy one. The government must go in for a complete ban on diesel engines without catering to the pleas of the automobile manufacturers.
One keeps hearing about Euro i and Euro ii norms, but I would be glad if an article is written about the various parameters of the norms and also about the norms in the us which you claim are tougher.
A recent article in the Economic Times talked about the government's decision of going for lpg- powered vehicles. I would be grateful if you could delve into the matter and bring out a comparison -- advantages, cost factor and adverse effects -- between cng, conventional petrol and diesel engines....
Power to the people
Anil Agarwal's editorial on Tarun Bharat Sangh ('You are the government' Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 20; March 15) made excellent reading. There is no doubt that many people would agree with his views about giving power to the local people.
I believe that if the same method is emulated at a national level then our country will move in the right direction. It would be heartening if other people of his stature also start discussing the similar issue and provide competent leadership. I would request you to initiate a debate on this issue at a larger forum. Such initiatives will help in attaining our objective to rebuild the society and the nation as a whole....
A burning question
The human-induced forest fire in Indonesia a few months ago adversely affected the environment and also the economy of that country. In India, it is still not clear whether the fires in the hills of Uttar Pradesh were natural or due to human activity ('Forests of fire' Down To Earth, Vol 8, No 2; June 15). Why could we not use helicopters to contain the fire? We seem to have no money to fight the fire and save the environment. Our leaders have no time to think about the country and its environment. Their primary interest is to indulge in fighting in and outside Parliament....
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