Bhubaneswar, July 30 :
Vedanta’s capacity expansion plan for its Odisha alumina refinery got a boost Wednesday when most local villagers supported it at a public hearing but an anti-Vedanta leader termed it illegal.
Vedanta plans to expand six-fold the capacity of its one-million-tonne per annum alumina refinery in the state.
The state pollution control board successfully conducted a public hearing near Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, about 600 km from Bhubaneswar.
The majority of the 1,500 to 2,000 people from nearby villages who participated in the public hearing supported the project and said they have no objection to the expansion, district collector Bijaya Ketan Upadhyaya told IANS.
He said the local authorities will send the proceedings of the public hearing to the state government which will forward it to the central government for final approval.
The union environment ministry had in August 2010 issued a show-cause notice to the company under the Environment Protection Act for undertaking construction without prior clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
After examining the company’s response in the matter, the ministry in October 2010 cancelled the terms of reference issued in 2009.
The ministry then directed the company to maintain status quo at the site and asked it to ensure that no further construction was undertaken for expansion of the project.
The ministry asked the company to furnish a fresh proposal to obtain environmental clearance for the proposed expansion.
The public hearing was held following the ministry’s direction on a fresh application submitted by the company.
A company spokesman said the development demonstrated that the villagers want the plant in their region.
Anti-Vedanta movement leader Lingaraj Azad, however, termed the public hearing illegal. “Not all people of the villages situated close by were informed about the public hearing,” he told IANS.
“Several villagers were also not allowed to present their views, as a result the public hearing was marred by protests. There was also no voting at the end,” he added.