Meeting with villagers on Vedanta's expansion plan a formality
a public hearing on April 25 to obtain people's views on Vedanta's plans to expand its alumina refinery in Orissa ended abruptly following protests by the Kondh tribals. The meeting, organized by the state pollution control board (ospcb), was held in Belemba village and attended by 400 people.
Vedanta Alumunium has the Supreme Court's permission to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills in Lanjigarh, Kalahandi district. It plans to expand the capacity of its refinery from one million tonnes to six million tonnes a year. The public hearing was a routine procedure to obtain environment ministry's clearance, said ospcb's regional officer P C Routa.
"People raised issues of pollution in the Vansdhara river that is causing skin problems and threats to Niyamgiri's ecology," said Siddhartha Nayak of Kalahandi Sachetan Nagrik Manch. But neither the company nor the ospcb is concerned about it, he said. A former sarpanch of Chatrapur gram panchayat, Senapati Nayak, submitted a memorandum to the additional district magistrate demanding the village be relocated as the river has become polluted (see 'Extracting a cost', Down To Earth, November 16-30, 2008). ospcb defended Vedanta saying corrective measures have been taken by the company to reduce pollution.
Vedanta spokesperson Shashank Patnaik had a different version of the proceedings: people have welcomed the expansion project.