Biodiversity conservation and protection is at the core of the Vedanta Group’s philosophy on environment stewardship, with clear objectives of protecting long term health, function, and viability of the natural environment and its components surrounding our operations.
Several studies in addition to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) were conducted in the course of the Supreme Court proceedings. The Wild Life Institute of India (WII) and the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDI) were appointed by the Court to study the impact of mining on the biodiversity of Lanjigarh.
As per the clarifications provided by the Government of Orissa to the Supreme Court, the area for the mining project doesn’t comprise of environmentally-critical areas such as a Wild Life Sanctuary, a National park or a Bio-reserve. The normal movement of the elephants in South Orissa is from Karlapat to Kotagarh sanctuary, which is about 50 Kms away from the proposed mining site. To maintain biodiversity of the region, a Wildlife Conservation and Management Scheme (CMS) was prepared and then reviewed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. Implementation of wild life management plan shall be monitored and reviewed by the Government of Orissa.
Of the 664 hectares is the forest land, of which only 390 hectares of forest land has been proposed to be utilized for mining and other ancillary activities. The balance forest land will remain as non-mining area, including the safety zone on the periphery.
Streams and Springs
The bauxite bearing area is barren due to the presence of an impermeable layer of laterite and so there are no water bodies, vegetation and habitation there. The mining operation and subsequent back-filling on the proposed mining area will help in development of green cover at the bald laterite patches. A similar green cover has been achieved at NALCO’s (National Aluminium Company Limited) Damanjodi bauxite mines where a previously barren hill is now under forest cover.
As part of the Supreme Court proceedings, the Central Mine Planning Development Institute and Orissa Agriculture University of Technology have studied the issue of soil erosion and possible impact on water streams originating from the Niyamgiri hills. It was found that the over burden in the proposed mining area is negligible and that the soil erosion from the mining activity would be minimal and will not have any adverse impact on the streams. The study ruled out any possibility of silting of the streams.
It is notable that the Dongria Kondh tribe’s agricultural practice of shifting cultivation results in large-scale destruction of forest and thereby bio-diversity. It is estimated that annually 5,030 sq. km of forest area in Orissa is subjected to shifting cultivation. (Forest Survey of India Report, 1999).