Though not invited to participate at the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi tomorrow, the Orissa government is still expecting an opportunity to explain its stand on Vedanta’s controversial Niyamgiri mining project.
“Though we were hopeful of getting an invitation to place our stand before the FAC, no communication had been received from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) so far,” said a senior official at the forest and environment department here.
Stating that inviting State governments to the FAC meeting is not mandatory, the official pointed out that it is one of the appropriate forums to consider views of both the sides.
While strongly protesting to the objections raised by the N C Saxena Committee on the project, the State government, in a letter to the Union secretary of MoEF, had said: “Hear us before taking any final decision on the proposed mining project“.
The Saxena Committee, appointed by the MoEF, had accused the State government of violating at least two acts, Forest Conservation Act and Forest Rights Act, while recommending the name of Vedanta for forest diversion proposal and environmental clearance required for starting mining activities at ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills in Orissa’s Kalahandi—Rayagada districts.
“If the Centre takes any final decision basing on the Saxena Committee report, it may not be acceptable for the State government,” he said adding that during a controversy, both sides should be given an equal chance to place their points for a solution.
While refuting the objections raised by the committee, the State government claimed that it did not violate any law of the land. “Rather we worked based on the directives of the Supreme Court which earlier heard objections raised by the Saxena committee,” steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty pointed out.
This apart, the State government pointed out that the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Ranchi-based Central Mining Planning and Design Institute had studied the possible impact of mining on Niyamgiri’s bio-diversity, its wildlife, impact on soil erosion and water level due to mining activities.
“We are ready with all the facts and figures to counter the objections raised by the Saxena committee,” the official said.