A report by Nitin Sethi for Business Standard recounts how the NDA government’s reading of the law helped companies like Vedanta to circumvent green laws.

Vedantas Sterlite plant benefited from BJP govts interpretation of rules Report
news Sterlite plant Friday, May 25, 2018 - 08:56

The simmering tension and ensuing violence at Thoothukudi on Tuesday, as a result of protests against the Sterlite copper plant, has left 13 people dead so far. Following this, the High Court stayed the controversial expansion of Vedanta’s plant a day later. The court directed the company to go in for public consultation, which the company claimed was not a legal requirement. It has since emerged through a report by Nitin Sethi in Business Standard that Vedanta got environmental clearance from the Union government to expand the plant to double the capacity without public consultation, thanks to a reinterpretation of the law by the NDA government. 

Records pertaining to the court and Union environment ministry accessed by Business Standard reveal that the NDA government gave its own interpretation to green regulations in December 2014, which helped plants such as the one at Thoothukudi to be constructed without taking the people of the affected area into confidence.

The then Environment Minister issued orders and called it a ‘clarification’ which enabled the existing rules to be bypassed. This allowed Vedanta and other industries who made pleas, to go ahead with their projects without holding discussions with the public, the report states.

Companies like Vedanta benefitted from this tweaking of rules by the NDA government as the environment ministry under UPA government in May 2014 had specified that projects such as Vedanta’s in Thoothukudi were legally required to first go through public consultations.

In 2016, the December orders of the NDA government, which favoured Vedanta were found to be illegal by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Only after the NGT threatened bailable orders against the environment ministry officials did they reveal information, the report states. Ministry officials meanwhile maintained that annulling the government’s December 2014 orders would severely affect several projects.

Eventually, the NGT did quash the December 2014 orders and on its directions, the ministry passed fresh orders expressly stating that projects in industrial parks without environmental clearances needed to hold public hearings.

But by then, Vedanta had already got an extension of the green clearance to its expansion project in Thoothukudi without having a public hearing, the report says.

It is on the basis of the 2016 ruling of the NGT that the court has ordered Vedanta to halt the project and go back to the public to hold consultations.

You can read the entire story of how the NDA government tweaked the rules and how Vedanta benefitted, here.


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