The Rule of Law as an Optional Extra

And then, there is Lafarge.

The issue is whether Lafarge Umiam Mining should have sought a forest clearance while seeking environmental clearance in 2000 to mine limestone in the East Khasi Hills to feed a Lafarge cement plant in Bangladesh. Critics, like the SC’s Central Empowered Committee, say the company submitted a misleading Environmental Impact Assessment where it described the area it proposed to mine as “a near wasteland”. This assertion was found to be false in 2006 by the Meghalaya chief conservator of forests, who on a visit to the mining lease found the area had thick natural vegetation cover.

for its part, the company denies wrongdoing, and says that the convoluted structures of forest governance in india are to blame. a stance that the indian government is sympathetic towards, and has consequently been asking the Supreme Court to levy penalties but regularise the project.

in the process, however, a terribly important question has been raised.

By mining limestone without a forest clearance, the company had violated the Forest Conservation Act and possibly the Environment Protection Act as well. Now… the Indian government is trying to regularise the project… The implications are unnerving. In part because if the government’s proposal is accepted by the Supreme Court, it will create a precedent where any company can win clearances on the basis of misleading affidavits and later press for regularisation. And in part because the government evidently thinks it can apply India’s laws selectively.

read more here.


sense and nonsense in the debate over vedanta’s lanjigarh plans

for the longest time, vedanta’s bauxite mining plans in lanjigarh, orissa, have been a lightening rod for criticism. earlier this year, the environment ministry abruptly turned against it. one reason cited for this switch was the congress’ need to hold onto the tribal vote.

but things had been simmering at the ground as well. and so, in april, shortly after a study team sent by the environment ministry submitted a divided report on the project, ET travelled down to lanjigarh and tried to separate facts from opinions. we found that public sentiment had indeed turned against the project. that local politicians — all so adept at reading public sentiment –were opposing it now.

what went wrong? click here.