Vedanta issue: A few disturbing questions
Last updated on: August 25, 2010 20:24 IST

Nilmadhab Mohanty

The decision of Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam
Ramesh not to grant Stage II forest clearance to the proposal of the
Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri in
Orissa has been welcomed in many circles, in particular by the
environmental activists, for the protection it will provide to an
ecologically sensitive area of the country and to the Kondh tribes
(and Dalits) living in the area.

There are, however a few disturbing questions that need to be answered
by the ministry in order to buttress the minister's claim that the
decision was an objective one with no prejudice or politics
influencing it.

First, the manner and time-line followed in the decision-making. The
Orissa state government seems to have applied for final clearance in
August 2009.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has been deliberating the proposal
at least since November 2009. In addition to the information submitted
by the State and the central government's own agencies, it had the
benefit of the recommendations made by a three-member expert group
which submitted its report in February 2010.

FAC then asks for yet another committee under the Ministry of Tribal
Affairs, which is the nodal agency in the central government for
tribal rights. The environment minister, however, appoints his own
committee (the Saxena Committee) in the last week of June 2010.

Then the pace quickens: The environment minister writes to the law
ministry on July 19 to obtain the Attorney General's opinion if the
ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) apply its mind and decide
in the light of the Supreme Court's earlier decision giving forest

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