Brahmani River Pellets Limited (BRPL), promoted by the UK-based Stemcor group, which was recently barred by National Green Tribunal from using water of Baitarani River admitted that by the time the company got Stage I forest clearance, it had already completed 95 per cent of project.

According to affidavit submitted by the BRPL in response to NGT’s verdict, “the Central government granted Stage-I forest clearance to the BRPL on November 2, 2011 for the beneficiation plant and pipeline.

Stage-2 clearance for beneficiation plant was granted on July 9, 2012.”

The company, however, admitted in the affidavit that by June 27, 2011, about 95 per cent of the project had been completed.

“Before getting Stage-1 forest clearance, one should not go ahead with work with such speed,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a green activist.

The BRPL had proposed to construct 4 mtpa iron ore beneficiation plant located at village Tanto and a tailing dam at Nalda in Barbil Tahsil of Keonjhar district. The beneficiation plant would be connected by a 220 km underground slurry pipeline to pellet plant under construction at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district.

However, it was alleged that the company with complete disregard to existing norms went ahead with construction.

As per the affidavit, on February 2, 2009 the State Water Resource Department had allocated 4.70 cusec water to company from River Baitarani for use in beneficiation plant.

The permission was valid for three years. Though the company in the affidavit said it had applied for renewal eight months before expiry of permission, there was no word if the permission had been renewed.

Senior High Court lawyer Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, who was pleading against BRPL at NGT, said, “the company showed unwanted urgency to complete the project. In 13th meeting of Water Resource Board held on November 30, 2010, it was decided that in view of low non-monsoon water availability, allocation to industries from Baitarani upstream of Kanupur Dam should not be made until detailed water management study considering all priority sectoral use is completed and approved by WRB.”

Of late public scrutiny over use of river water by industries has increased. More and more farmer associations and political parties have started to question the government for permitting industries to draw waters.