Impact of the Environmental Clearance of Vedanta Alumina Limited

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On 19 March 2003 Vedanta Alumina Limited applied for environmental clearance from the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to construct an alumina refinery project in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.  This clearance was granted on 22 September 2004.  The clearance stated that the project did not involve any deforestation.  However, the alumina refinery depended directly on mining the Niyamgiri hills, an area where the Dongria Kondh tribe lives.  The clearance application for the mining portion of the project was made separately.  The Central Empowered Committee (CEC), part of the MOeF, received petitions opposing the construction of Vedanta’s alumina refinery and its related bauxite mining. The CEC’s mandate is to monitor and ensure compliance with orders of the Supreme Court concerning forests and wildlife.  The project’s opponents alleged it would destroy the Dongria Kondh tribe’s way of life (due to their spiritual and cultural attachment to the Niyamgiri hills) and that work on the projects had begun without the requisite clearances.  Further, they alleged that many people had been forcibly removed from their homes, at times violently, and that the mining has already caused extensive environmental damage and will cause more. The CEC made recommendations to the Supreme Court, on 21 September 2005, for the revocation of the environmental clearance for the alumina refinery.  On 23 November 2007 the Supreme Court of India barred Vedanta and its subsidiary Sterlite from undertaking the project.  (Vedanta had transferred the project to Sterlite.)  However, the court invited Vedanta to resubmit its proposal in line with certain safeguards.  The safeguards included: a special purpose company with the state of Orissa and Vedanta as shareholders owning the project, Vedanta setting aside 5% of its profits before tax for reinvestment into the local community and the submission of a report on the effects of the project and particularly the number of people...
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