Bhubaneswar, Aug 5:
It is not just private miners, who have flouted all environmental laws in carrying out mining operations. The state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) apparently is equally guilty of the same violations that a host of private companies are in the dock for.
OMC has used forest land to build conveyor belt, township, pipeline and a road used for plying of trucks at its Daitari iron ore mines in Keonjhar district for years without necessary clearance, environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty has alleged.
On April 13 this year, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had sought a detailed report and recommended legal action against OMC as well as forest officials who had allowed the illegal diversion of 249.96 hectares in Rebana reserve forests in Keonjhar, which also happens to be a prime elephant habitat, Mohanty said in a press release today.
But in its reply to the MoEF on April 25, the government of Odisha, far from taking action against the violators, actually defended its non-action against the concerned OMC and forest officials and made a strong case for Stage-I clearance to the project, the secretary of the Wildlife Society of Odisha said.
Based on directions issued by the MOEF on 25.4.2013, the DFO, Keonjhar Wildlife Division had stopped the use of the road passing through Rebana R.F. by OMC on June 17 this year. However, due to pressure from the steel lobby, the state Forest department once again allowed them to resume ore transport by road in the last week of July on the specious ground that the forest diversion proposal was pending with MoEF and stoppage of ore transport would affect employment and production of steel!
The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) has lodged a protest with the MOEF on August 1 demanding rejection of the explanation letter sent by the state government in which it has justified its failure to file cases against OMC. WSO has also demanded rejection of the application for Stage I forest clearance on the ground of lack of action against the officials of the OMC and the Forest department. “As OMC is headed by a senior IAS officer, the state government is protecting the PSU though it is openly violating the FC Act, 1980 as well as orders of the Supreme Court,” Mohanty said.
At least 1,000 trucks ply everyday on this road causing havoc to the local elephant population of the dense Rebana R.F. as road transport, with its diesel fumes, engine noise and bright lights, affects elephants, the release said.