National Green Tribunal had pulled the central and
state government agencies on the unauthorized use of forestland by Vedanta
Alumina without mandatory clearance.
Acting on a petition by a forest protection body
(Non-Violence Again), the National Green Tribunal (Eastern Zone Branch) Kolkata
Vedanta Alumina limited has directed both the union and state government
agencies to furnish affidavit putting forth their stand.
The NGT took strong exception to the act of
improprieties on part of government agencies and issued directions while asking
the ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to file affidavit stating whether
clearance accorded to the project’s ash pond construction. The MOEF in their
affidavit shall also clarify as to whether statutory clearance was obtained by
the industrial house for constructing ash pond in the forest land, said the
counsel for the petitioners, Sankar Prasad Pani.
The matter was posted for April 27 for next hearing.
The tribunal also ordered the State Pollution Control
Board and Jharsuguda Collector to file affidavit stating whether the unit
adhered to rules and laws for ash pond building.
The case was filed under section 18(1) read with
Section 14(1) and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
The petitioners had earlier challenged the ash pond
construction by Vedanta Alumina by alleging that there was unauthorized use of
246 acre stretch of forestland by the Vedanta Limited in Burkhamunda Village of
Odisha’s Jharsuguda district. The company threw norm to the winds and went
ahead with construction without approval from the Central Government under
Forest Conservation Act 1980. The company had resorted to wanton felling of
trees to build the ash pond. The very act of construction and changing the
nature of land use from forest to non forest-activity is against the National
Forest Policy and an apex court order on 1996, the petition had stated.
“We are unable to understand as how Jharsuguda
Collector and the state pollution control board granted permission of fly ash
disposal to Vendanta Limited in the area without clearance from the Ministry of
Environment and Forest (MOEF) under Sec. 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act,
1980”, the NGT eastern zone branch members, Justice S.P Wangdi and Professor P.
C. Mishra, had observed.