Vedanta Faces Hurdle in Environmental Clearance for Controversial Steel Plant in Jharkhand

Reported by

SushmitaLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

March 9, 2021

Location of Conflict

Bhagaband

,

Siyaljori, Budhibinor, Alkusa, Dhandabar, Bandhdih and Hutu Pathar villages

Bokaro

This is a Left Wing Extremism Affected District

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Steel Plant

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

1500

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

174

ha

State

Jharkhand

Sector

Industry

In 2008, Electrosteel Steels Limited (ESL) constructed a steel plant in Bokaro after receiving an environmental clearance from the then Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Jharkhand forest department claimed the construction was an encroachment of forestland in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. ESL reportedly deceived thousands of marginal farmers by misinforming them about the purpose of acquisition and not taking their consent. It was reported that the companys middlemen purchased land at INR 70,000-80,000 per acre, which was one-tenth of the governments stipulated industry price at that time. As compensation, the farmers demanded jobs at the plant, but ESL employed only a few of them. When the farmers protested, the company, in collusion with local officials, pressed false charges against hundreds of them. Between March 2009 through March 2016, the forest department filed 53 cases against the company on this issue. A Supreme Court-appointed centrally empowered committee took stock of the situation and asked Jharkhands chief secretary on July 15, 2010, to act immediately, but no action was taken. In October 2014, over 500 local residents, including farmers, gheraoed the steel plant and demanded employment for those who were displaced by the plant. They alleged that the company had agreed to hire about 2,000 land losers as contractual labourers but failed to keep its end of the bargain. Another report mentioned other challenges that the steel plant would pose, including loss of livelihood, displacement, groundwater pollution and crop damage, among others. According to a May 2017 site inspection report, ESL had sought environmental clearance in 2006-2007 for a site in Parbatpur; however, the report found that the actual site was located in Bhagaband, five kilometers away from the proposed area, implying that ESL had made misrepresentations to obtain the clearance. In 2018, Vedanta took over ESL and announced that there would be a new plant in the same location. The estimated investment was approximately US $3-4 billion for a capacity of 4.5 million tonnes annually. Following the acquisition, ESL applied for fresh forest and environmental clearances. In a meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) -- responsible for granting environmental clearances to development projects -- the EAC confirmed that ESL had violated provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006. It recommended issuing standard Terms of Reference to the project and directed the state government and the State Pollution Control Board to take action against the project proponent under the provisions of Section 19 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The committee also ordered that ESL should not be granted consent to operate till the project is given an environmental clearance. In December 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change regularised the encroachment and gave in-principle forest clearance to 174 hectares of forestland that was reportedly encroached by ESL. A public hearing for the project was organised in December 2020 in the presence of villagers residing close to the steel plant. While the CEO of Chas Municipal Corporation, who chaired the hearing, maintained that the hearing was successful and villagers had given their consent to the plant, people protested outside the plant premises, alleging that the hearing was conducted without informing the public at large.  

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Forest, Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

291000

Type of investment:

Revised Investment

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

174

ha

Starting Year

2012

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Complaint against procedural violations, Demand for rehabilitation, Opposition against environmental degradation, Demand for promised compensation

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Electrosteel Steels Limited

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
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