Sharmili Mallick

The eastern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Kolkata has imposed a fine of Rs 2 crore on Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL), Angul taking cognizance of the damages allegedly caused by the steel major to the ecology of Nandira River in Angul. 

The petitioner, Alekha Chandra Tripathy, a resident of Cuttack, had levelled allegations that the activities by the steel company have led to deterioration in the condition of the Nandira River. He alleged that the JSPL has constructed an integrated steel plant with a captive power unit over the land at Sanakerjang in Sankerjang Jungle under Nisha Police Station limits in the district without obtaining prior permission from the concerned authorities.

A joint committee comprising of Tehsildars of Banarpal and Chhendipada and Assistant Executive Engineer of Minor Irrigation (M.I) Sub-Division in Angul, appointed by the NGT found that the Nandira Nalla within the compact area of JSPL has lost its characteristics.

The NGT joint inquiry committee stated that the Kurdabahali/ Nandira Nalla, passing through the area acquired by the JSPL has been filled up with earth and an industry has been constructed over that area and therefore, the river has lost its characteristics. The Joint Inquiry Report also noted that the Kurdabahali/Nandira Nalla passes over six villages covering an area of 20.460 acres of which 13.36 acres has been given to Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO).

“JSPL had entered into an MOU with the Government of Odisha on January 3, 2005 for setting up of a 6 MTPA Steel Plant and 900 MW Captive Power Plant at Kerjang in Angul districy and IDCO, Bhubaneswar has handed over a major chunk of leasable Government land as also acquired private land to JSPL for the purpose,” mentioned the joint inquiry report.

“The Kurdabahali/Nandira Nalla originates from village Badakerjang Jungle and passes through villages-- Kaliakata, Panapur, Kaliakata Jungle, Ramadihi and Sankerjang Jungle and finally merges into the Parang Minor Irrigation Project. A tributary originating in the tri- junction area of villages,-- Basudevpur, Panapur and Sankerjang Jungle also meets this Nalla at the junction point of Kaliakata Jungle and Sankerjang Jungle,” said the NGT committee.

The NGT added that to allow free flow of water to the Parang Minor Irrigation Project, the JSPL had diverted the Nalla by providing an alternate channel measuring an area of 21.29 acres on their acquired area. Due to the Nalla, a big chunk of land within the compact project area of JSPL was getting water logged and plant activity was being hampered, and local people were also getting affected which was creating law and order issue for the administration.

In its order issued on Friday, a bench of Justice B Amit Sthalekar (judicial member) and Saibal Dasgupta (expert member) directed that out of the Rs 2 crore, Rs 1.5 crore shall be deposited with the State Forest Department while Rs 50 lakh shall be deposited with the Odisha State Pollution Control Board.

“The Forest Department will utilize the amount for increasing the green cover in the area along the banks of the Nalla and in available vacant areas. The Odisha State Pollution Control Board will be responsible for continuous monitoring of the water quality of the Nalla as well as in the Parang Minor Irrigation Project,” directed the NGT.