Staff Reporter

The plant, estimated at Rs. 5,000 cr., relies on bauxite mining

Affected people holding dharna for enhanced compensation

Environmental clearance for the company not renewed since 2003, says Praful Samantra

BERHAMPUR: Agitation by people affected by the project has again stalled the construction work of Utkal Alumina International Limited at Kashipur in Rayagada district.

The agitators have been holding dharna since Wednesday and are not allowing company officials to reach the project site. It may be noted that this company of the Aditya Birla group has proposed to build an alumina plant at Kashipur at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crores.

This factory would rely on the bauxite mining in nearby areas. The recent agitation is being led by leaders of the Prakrutika Sampad Surakhya Parishad (PSSP), an organization which has spearheaded the anti-alumina project agitation in the area for a decade. Convener of the PSSP Bhagaban Majhi said this time the protestors were demanding that Kumarmangalam Birla himself come over and hold talks with the protestors regarding their demands. The agitators are demanding enhanced compensation.

This project continues to face opposition of tribals and dalits of the area. Trouble for the company has multiplied as the already displaced families have now come up with new demands of enhanced compensation, jobs and other benefits. The displaced families are demanding a compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs for each acre of agricultural land acquired by the company and guarantee of job to the members of affected families.

Since its conception in 1992 the company has been facing opposition of locals and environmentalists. In 2008 work of the project was stalled for more than 107 days by a similar agitation. In 2007 the project work had to be stopped for 127 days due to agitation of affected families. In 2006 it was for 55 days and in 2005 the number of days when no project work could be taken up due to local opposition was over 60 days.

Environmental activist Praful Samantra said now the very families who had helped the company for land acquisition have started to stand up against it. Even the local leaders of political parties were participating in recent agitation, he said.

It proves that the company had not been able to satisfy the people to be affected by the project which would affect the environment, life and livelihood in the area, he said.Mr Samantra said the Utkal Alumina had not yet got the environmental clearance for its mining areas renewed since 2003. He criticized the government for providing new mining lease to the company despite this.