MoEF&CC issues show cause notice to Vedanta for serious violations of environment laws but no action taken so far

MoEF&CC issued a show cause notice on 31 st August 2021 to Vedanta Ltd for serious violations of environment and other laws by its Amona pig iron plant. Though the one month period given in the SCN has ended, there is still no information from the Environment Ministry of whether the EC that allows the plant to function has been cancelled or withdrawn.

These violations came to light after Vedanta applied in December 2018 for preparation of an EIA report for upgrading its 3 blast furnaces, besides adding an oxygen plant, and other related units. As part of the EIA process, the proposals must be examined by the Expert Appraisal Committee, which lays down Terms of Reference (TORs) for the study. The EAC receives a compliance report from the Pollution Control Board relating to implementation of the conditions laid down in the EC dated 3.6.2009 and the subsequent amended EC dated 7.1.2020.

The Pollution Board compliance report revealed a host of serious problems with the functioning of the Vedanta plant. These include:

The PP was yet to comply with the conditions pertaining to treatment of storm water discharges, fugitive emission control, green belt development, slag utilization, installation of CAAQMS and secondary emission controls. According to the report, storm water was being discharged directly from the premises without adequate settling to the adjoining areas including the water bodies. The surface run off flow had resulted in collapse of the compound wall of the company and the storm water, without settling, had gone into the village temple lake.

The ambient air quality results indicated the presence of shiny particles which have settled on the monitoring equipments located in Amona and Navelim villages and appeared linked to blast furnace operations. The company had not achieved zero liquid discharge till date as the blow down from the cooling tower was being let into the Mandovi river. More than 45 tons of slag were being stored in the open.

No conservation plan had been prepared for the wildlife which included 7 (1) species in the study area. The density of green belt development was approximately 500 trees in place of 2500 per ha as required by the environment clearance and there was no green belt development among the periphery of the site.

On 29.7.2021, Vedanta sought an environment clearance, saying it had completed its EIA study. The EAC however returned the proposal in view of the compliance report submitted by the Pollution Control Board, and in view of several complaints of villagers from Amona and Navelim residing in the vicinity of the plant. As per procedure, the EAC also recommended issue of a show cause notice to Vedanta.

The SCN, which was issued on 31.8.2021 requires Vedanta to respond to the charges or lose its environment clearance for operating the plant.

Copy of the SCN is here.