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Vedanta's Nuakhai gift for villagers – eat ‘Ash'!

WIO Issue Brief [1] – 10 th September 2010

Dear All,

As you can see from the attached news published in the Economic Times ( http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/energy/oil--gas/Vedanta-suffers-another-green-blow-in-Orissa/articleshow/6527398.cms ) , Vedanta's independent power plant (IPP), that was inaugurated by the Orissa Chief Minister on 21 st of August, was shut down by the District Collector of Jharsuguda following strong protest by local villagers. That day, as per the press release of Vedanta group, “ Mr Naveen Patnaik appreciated Vedanta for making the IPP as one of the most environment friendly plants of the country”. Barely a fortnight after, i t was raining ash from this plant and people around the plant found their locality, crop fields, water bodies and everything covered with black layers of ash. Vedanta here is however not as unlucky as it was in the Niyamgiri case. Even though the plant (several units of it) run without proper clearance from the State Pollution Control Board ( http://www.hindusta ntimes.com/ No-pollution- clearance- Vedanta-runs- 10-units/ Article1- 597883.aspx ) The ban did not last for twenty four hours. It is reported that the company repaired the defects in the power plant in a record time!! The Collector, who has given the permission to re-operate the plant, is reported to have got an assurance from the Vedanta that the "ash will continue to rain for another 48 hours only" and if it continues beyond, the plant will again be stopped. Even when the question remains whether the Collector has got ample technical support to verify whether the defect has been repaired or not, Vedanta's power is re-established and farmers fate goes down the dust; in a state where the Chief Minister has been reassuring that farmers are his first priority and not industries.

Tomorrow, the entire western Orissa will be celebrating Nuakhai – the festival of good harvest when people will offer new rice to God as a symbol to thank him for his blessings that allows them to cultivate and produce and also to seek his blessings for prospering in farming. The villagers surrounding the Vedanta plant in Jharsuguda will however celebrate Nuakhai sans any new harvest. For them the ‘ash' that will continue to rain for the coming 48 hours is the ‘new crop'.

So, the villagers near Vedanta will celebrate it with ash!!!

WIO has been raising the issue of drastic reduction of crop and vegetable production in these villages owing to pollution by Vedanta and illegal extraction of ground water which has suck up all water bodies and sources nearby. Monsoon did not show up this year and the farmers are as such suffering; allowing Vedanta to rain ‘ash' is a double curse for the farmers.

Look forward to your comments, feedback and suggestions.

Thanks and regards

Truly

Ranjan K Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives Orissa [2]

Cell: +91-9437050103

Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.com

Water Initiatives Orissa: Fighting water woes, combating climate change.... more than two decades now!

Related news reports

Vedanta suffers another green blow in Orissa

The Economic Times

BHUBANESWAR: Environmental issues have again affected Vedanta Resources, with its power producing arm, Sterlite Energy, forced to temporarily shut its power plant at Jharsuguda in Orissa, following protests by residents who alleged that the unit had caused air pollution.

The 600 megawatt power plant, which was formally commissioned by chief minister Naveen Patnaik recently on August 21, developed a technical snag soon after, sending fly ash – a by-product in power generation – into the air and causing problems to people living nearby.

When the problem, which started a week ago, persisted, some 300 villagers residing near the plant, protested by blocking the road leading to the plant from Jharsuguda.

Jharsuguda district collector SN Mishra immediately intervened by asking plant authorities to shut down the operation of the plant for the time being. “I have asked the plant authorities to shut down the plant, take corrective measures and report within 48 hours,” Mr Mishra told reporters.

The plant authorities have been accused of not running the electrostatic precipitators — a device used to remove liquid droplets or solid particles from a gas in which they are suspended, preventing emission of fly ash into the air.

Sterlite Energy Jharsuguda chief operating officer Abhijit Padhi admitted that due to a technical snag in the precipitators, the fly ash content went high. “The company is taking proactive steps to control the situation by shutting down the power plant for the time being to correct the technical snag,” he added.

The latest development may extend woes for the Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Resources which has been forced to buy bauxite from outside after the central government denied mining permission to Vedanta's joint venture partner Orissa Mining Corp, following protests from environmentalists.

The Jharsuguda unit, is an independent power producer, that generates power for use by the state grid. It is located in the same premises which houses Vedanta Resources 1,215-mw captive power plant that is used to make aluminium.

Once the IPP is fully operational, Sterlite Energy Jharsuguda will be the largest single-location power station in the country with a total production capacity of 3,615 mw. The total power produced from the Sterlite Energy's first unit will be given to Orissa state grid. The tariff is yet to be fixed.

Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/energy/oil--gas/Vedanta-suffers-another-green-blow-in-Orissa/articleshow/6527398.cms

No pollution clearance, Vedanta runs 10 units

Hindustan Times

Bhubaneswar, September 09, 2010

The Vedanta group is operating a large aluminium smelter plant and nine captive power units in Orissa's Jharsuguda district without clearances from the state pollution control board (OSPCB). Sources said there is massive political pressure on the OSPCB to wink at these transgressions and allow the plants to operate as this is one of the state's two showpiece FDI projects. Over two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — the state government stonewalled HT's efforts to obtain its reaction.

According to a Right to Information reply obtained from OSPCB by an activist, two 135 MW captive power units of Vedanta Aluminium's 500,000-tonne-a-year smelter never got any clearance from the board.

Then, the “trial consent to operate” order OSPCB issued to the smelter and seven other 135 MW captive power plants expired on March 31 this year. The board has refused to renew its consent citing numerous violations of its guidelines. The Union environment ministry recently refused to clear the group's bauxite mining project in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

Asked why no closure notice had been issued, OSPCB member-secretary Siddhant Das told HT: “The correct procedure is to send show cause notices, then ask for modifications and rectifications, call them for hearings. We issue closure notices only if all these procedures fail to produce results.” The board has issued four notices over the last five months. But that doesn't explain how the two power plants for which even trial consent orders were not issued remain in operation. “I have no comments to make on this as I do not know the details,” said Das.

Orissa Industry Minister Raghunath Mohanty promised to revert after checking with his staff. Thereafter, he did not respond to calls from HT.

Orissa energy secretary Pradeep Jena said: “Please ask the pollution control board.”

Vedanta, however, denied any wrongdoing. “There is no violation of the law. As of today, we have a valid consent from the OSPCB. This means it is satisfied with our pollution control norms. Renewal is an ongoing process, with the OSPCB asking for modifications from time to time,” said Abhijit Pati, chief operating officer, Vedanta Aluminium.

On the two units that never received any clearance, Pati reiterated there was no lllegality involved in their operation.

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[1] WIO issue briefs are very brief notes on current issues that have bearing on water, environment and living beings dependent on these in the state of Orissa. We are pasting below two news articles that are linked to this issue.

[2] Water Initiatives Orissa is a network of civil society organisations, academia, researchers, media, farmers and others concerned working on the issues of water, environment and climate change in the state of Orissa for more than two decades now.