Vedanta’s red mud pond leaks into Vamsadhara river

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.

By Latha Jishnu
Published: Monday 11 April 2011

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


Vedanta and lessons in conservation
Clampdown on Vedanta
Mining firms set up shop in Orissa
Jairam Ramesh says no to Vedanta project in Orissa
‘Vedanta violated laws, tribal rights’

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