Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 14:
Even as the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has cancelled the proposal of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) for mining in Niyamigiri hills, the state government has initiated the process for diversion of 1315.363 hectares of forest land in Panchapatmali Central and North Block in Koraput district allocated to Nalco for exploration of bauxite.
It is to be noted that the MoEF has already granted stage-I forest clearance to the company in November last year, which is functioning under temporary working permit (TWP) after the MoEF extended the permit for three months ending in February this year. The 12-month TWP, granted in 2012, was to expire on November 16, 2013.
The mining lease of the company could not be renewed on time because of the delay in holding statutory palli sabhas for diversion of forest land, sources said.
“After getting stage-I clearance, the government is expediting the process of diversion of 1294.283 hectares of forest land, including the safety zone of 25.275 ha within the mining lease area. MoEF has agreed for diversion of the forest land subject to compliance of 30 number of conditions by the user agency so as to consider the case for Stage-II (Final) forests clearance for this project,” said an official of state Forest department.
MoEF has asked the state government to take necessary steps for compliance of the conditions imposed in the stage-I approval order as well as the additional conditions imposed by the state government.
“This being a priority project, detailed compliance in this regard may be sent to this department expeditiously for scrutiny and onward transmission to MoEF, for their consideration for according final forest clearance to this project,” said MoEF in a recent letter to the state government.
However, the forest land proposed for diversion will not be handed over to Nalco for undertaking project activities as per proposed land use pattern until final forest clearance is accorded to the project by MoEF.
The Ministry also instructed the state to ensure that no non-forestry activities under the project take place on forest land without having final forest clearance. “Violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980, if any, may be reported in detail expeditiously to the state government for bringing the same to the notice of Government of India,” said the letter.
In this context, the MoEF, in its stage-I approval order, has asked the state government to allow to undertake mining as per the approved Mining Plan in 293.70 ha of already broken up forest land located within the mining lease, which includes 165.70 ha for infrastructure and 128 ha for mining purposes for a period of one year from the date of issue of the stage-I approval, till 20 November this year.