Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Alleged unauthorised use of forest land for industrial use by mining conglomerate Vedanta in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district has come under judicial scrutiny.

Acting on a petition by a forest protection body Non-Violence Again, the National Green Tribunal (Eastern Zone Branch) Kolkata has directed both the Union and State government agencies to furnish affidavit putting forth their stand.

The NGT took strong exception to the act of improprieties on part of government agencies and issued directions while asking the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to file affidavit stating whether clearance accorded to the project’s ash pond construction. The MOEF in their affidavit shall also clarify as to whether statutory clearance was obtained by the industrial house for constructing ash pond in the forest land, the counsel for the petitioners, Sankar Prasad Pani, told this web portal.

The matter was posted for April 27 for next hearing.

The tribunal also ordered the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and Jharsuguda Collector to file affidavit stating whether the unit adhered to rules and laws for ash pond building.

The case was filed under section 18(1) read with Section 14(1) and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

The petitioners had earlier challenged the ash pond construction by Vedanta by alleging that there was unauthorized use of 246 acre stretch of forest land by Vedanta Limited in Burkhamunda village of Jharsuguda district. The company threw norm to the winds and went ahead with construction without approval from the Central government under Forest Conservation Act 1980. The company had resorted to wanton felling of trees to build the ash pond. The very act of construction and changing the nature of land use from forest to non forest-activity is against the National Forest Policy and an apex court order on 1996, the petition had stated.

“We are unable to understand as how Jharsuguda Collector and the state pollution control board granted permission of fly ash disposal to Vendanta Limited in the area without clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) under Sec. 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980”, the NGT eastern zone branch members, Justice SP Wangdi and Professor PC Mishra, had observed.