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Bhubaneswar, Sept. 24

THE Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court has recommended the apex court against granting permission to the proposed alumina refinery of Vedanta Alumina Ltd in Orissa's Kalahandi district, saying that bauxite mining should not be permitted in the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills.

The CEC has recommended that the apex court consider revoking the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on September 22 last year for setting up the alumina refinery and directing them to stop work on the project.

"The project may only be reconsidered after an alternative bauxite mine site is identified."

The project had run into rough weather following a series of petitions in the apex court alleging violation of forest laws in the construction of the 1-million tonne capacity alumina refinery at Lanjigarh at a cost of Rs 4,000 crore.

The CEC also pulled up the State Government and the MoEF, observing that the project had been dealt with carelessly.

"The casual approach and the haste with which the entire issue of forests and environmental clearance for the alumina refinery project has been dealt with smacks of undue favour/leniency and does not inspire confidence with regard to the willingness and resolve of both the State Government and the MoEF."

The five-member CEC, headed by Mr P.V. Jayakrishnan, also recommended investigation by an unbiased and impartial agency into the allegations of improper rehabilitation and forceful eviction of tribal people.

"The alumina refinery project should have been allowed to be constructed only after carrying out an in-depth study about the effect of the proposed mining from Niyamgiri hills on water regime, flora and fauna, soil erosion and the Dongaria Kandha tribes residing at Niyamgiri hills, and after careful assessment of the economic gains vis-à-vis environmental considerations," the CEC observed.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 25, 2005)
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