The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has kept in abeyance its permission to Vedanta Aluminium for conduct of public hearing on the company's plan to expand the capacity of Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Kalahandi district from one million tonne to six million tonne after protests from environmentalists. The hearing was scheduled be held on May 2.
It may be noted, MoEF had earlier withdrawn the environment clearance granted to Vedanta Aluminium for the expansion project in August, 2010, citing non-availability of statutory clearances for the construction. The ministry had also cancelled the stage-II forest clearance given for bauxite mining at Niyamgiri, from where Vedanta would have sourced raw material for the refinery.
However, on an appeal by Vedanta Aluminium to review the decision, MoEF had allowed the company to conduct a fresh public hearing for the expansion project. With the green activists raising objection over the matter, the ministry has kept in abeyance its earlier permission.
This action by MoEF has, however, failed to pacify the environmentalists who slammed the ministry for flip-flop stand on the Vedanta Aluminium project. Prafulla Samantra, who had fought against environmental clearance given to Posco for building a steel plant at Paradip, criticised the MoEF over its frequent change of stance regarding Vedanta's aluminium refinery plant.
Samantara said the grant of permission to conduct the public hearing and then decision to keep it in abeyance smacked of some sort of “conspiracy”.
“I am surprised, how the MoEF officials gave their nod for conduct of a public hearing for a metal company which does not have a valid mineral supply agreement and while all its clearances are sub-judice,” he asked.
“It is a welcome step that the MOEF withdrew its permission for the public hearing, but I demand the officials, who gave the permission, be brought to justice,” he added.
Meanwhile, the company sources said, they are yet to see the MoEF letter addressed to the Odisha State Pollution Control Board keeping in abeyance the permission for conduct of public hearing for the expansion project.