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KOLKATA; Aug 23: The National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone Bench, today on Wednesday, 23 August 2017 served notice on the matter of ecological disaster and environmental pollution caused by mining activity to Tata Steel Limited and others. The respondents include the MOEF, New Delhi; the Dept of Forest and Environment, Govt of Odisha; the Odisha Pollution Control Board and the Collector, Jajpur district in Odisha. The bench accepted a petition by a local villager Lambodar Mohanto who has approached the National Green Tribunal. The applicant is a local inhabitant belonging to the Schedule Tribe community of Kalarangia atta where Tata steel Limited is operating its chromite ore mines.  The applicant and his villagers are directly affected in serious manner by the pollution caused by the company.

The petition filed by Advocate Sankar Pani seeks to challenge the destructive activities and unscientific management of mines by TATA Mines leading to the obstruction of natural streams, nickel deposits in agricultural land because of the mines run off, depletion of ground water in nearby villages because of deep mining, underground water contamination and the unscientific management of mines overburden causing severe environmental hazard in the locality.

Furthermore, the mining project has been granted environmental clearance with conditions for enhancement of production of chrome ore from 0.95 to 2.4 million TPA and Pyroxenite ore mining from 0.25 to 0.5 million TPA (ROM) and enhancement of chrome beneficiation production from 0.1 to 0.65 million TPA of M/s Tata Steel Ltd. which is located over the total project area of 579.685 ha. This includes 406 ha of mine lease area (73.697 ha of forest land and 332.303 ha of non-forest land), 100 ha of forest land for overburden dump and 73.685 ha of forest land for proposed tailing dam outside the mine lease area.

During rainy season the mine runoff water drains into the agricultural land of Puria jhar, Dehury sahi, Mahulkhal, Kakudia, Kusumundia and Ransol villages the lands are silted with nickel, making the land completely unsuitable for agriculture.

Most grievous is the fact that mines overburden of the company has already obstructed natural streams namely Puriajhar, Dehury Sahi Nalla, Malharsahi Stream, and Bhimatangar Nalla which are lifeline of local tribal for agricultural and domestic purposes. These streams used to irrigate 500 acres of agricultural land and because of the streams getting blocked, most of the land cannot be irrigated.

The number of ailments and diseases is going up. Scabies and tuberculosis are rampant in Sukinda block.  According to RTI information, the OrissaPOST of April 24, 2017 reports how diseases caused by contamination of water, air and dust are going up and 25, 000 people are affected and that if data from Sukinda and Kaliapani are taken into account, the number of affected people can easily go beyond 1 lakh.

The NGT has served notice to the MOEF and the OPCB since these issues directly come under them and they need to provide explanation for the use of forest land as well as the wide scale environmental destruction affecting all water sources and causing immense misery and ailment to the villagers.

The NGT expects all respondents to furnish explanations by October 3, 2017.