Friday, December 16, 2011

Water Lootera Vedanta gets undue favour from Water Bureaucracy

Open Letter to the Secretary, Water Resources Department, Govt. of Odisha from Water Initiatives Odisha

Sir, why the ‘water lootera’ Vedanta gets undue favour from your department? 

·         - Do you know it not Sir that your officers take recourse in ‘telephonic discussions’ in waiving off water tax to industries?
- Is this what the reforms you have been talking about in the name of Integrated Water Resources Management(IWRM) that, as we have been apprehending, is actually a plan to take away right of water from common people, farmers and ecology in favour of allocation to blind industrialization that the govt. is committed?
- The people of Odisha need an explanation on this. 


Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has just learnt that the Executive Engineer, Main Dam Division, Burla, on 18th November, 2011, has written to the Additional Secretary to Govt. of Odisha’s Water Resources Department to waive penalty due on the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. to the tune of about 9 crore of rupees against withdrawal of water from the Bheden River and later from Hirakud Reservoir.  The Executive Engineer, citing example of a telephonic instruction from the Additional Secretary of the DoWR, writes that industries having Govt. allocation should not be charged penal rate merely due to non-execution of agreement.  In fact, based on such a telephonic instruction, as the letter describes, the company was not being charged any penalty since August 2008.  However, a data sheet on assessment of water rate of VAL drawing water from river Bheden alone, shows that the Company has always been charged ‘six times penalty’ on almost each month from September 2007 onwards.  The Executive Engineer recommends the waiver on the ground that VAL has good payment records.  The above record however shows that the VAL has always had kept huge amount of arrears and has never cleared its dues as charged by the department.  It clearly shows how the Officials are favouring this industry.  We urge upon the Govt. of Odisha to immediately investigate into this matter and let the public know what makes an Executive Engineer favour a ‘Water Lootera’ Company like VAL.  We also demand stringent punishment to the company for having defaulted so long on the water tax and penalty imposed on it. 

This is not the isolated example when it comes to the Vedanta Group of Companies.  We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) had been raising the issue of unauthorised exploitation of ground water by VAL at Jharsuguda.  The local people have also raised this issue several times.  However, the Water Resources Department kept maintaining that there was no illegal exploitation of ground water.  Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has just got hold of a letter from the Chief Engineer, OWPO addressed to the Additional Secretary to Govt. of Odisha’s Water Resources Department which clearly mentions how the company has been illegally extracting ground water within its Jharsuguda complex through borewells.  The letter dated 17th September 2011 mentions that “1.782 lakh Gallon Water from borewell without Agreement since 08/2007.  So, 6 times penalty has been imposed and intimated the industries to seal all Borewell from Sept 2010 vide E.E. Letter No. 15.12.2010”.  Accordingly the company, as per the said govt. letter, had a water rate arrear of about 93 lakh rupees pending against it.  Was this free loot of the water resources possible without connivance of the departmental and other officials?  WIO urges upon the Govt. of Odisha to immediately inquire into this matter and punish the company and all officials involved in this fraud.  We also urge upon the govt. to inform the public the status of the borewells and the extraction of the water at the moment.  Have the borewells been sealed, as mentioned in the above referred letter?  We doubt.  So, we demand a public audit of the company complex where local people, local self govt. representatives and civil society representatives should go along with govt. officials and verify the situation. 

We also urge upon the govt. to declare all production of the company using the illegally drawn water as ‘illegal’ and impose heavy penalty and punish the company bosses and officials suitably.  As such also this company has all along been a defaulter in paying water rates.  The above letter of the Chief Engineer mentions that VAL Lanjigarh and VAL Jharsuguda together had arrear worth Rs.14,37,99,172/- pending against it as on July 2011.  It must have gone much higher by now.  Its high time the Govt. took action to show that it respects its own Water Policy and Rules.

The above examples point how the Industries are given a free ride to loot our water resources.  We at WIO have raised concerns about several industries already.  The same was pointed out by several participants of a recently organised consultation on “IWRM and Baitarani” at Keonjhar by WIO.  We urge upon the Govt. of Odisha to release a status paper of all illegal withdrawal of water by industries in the state, the amount of tariff dues and penalty pending with them, action taken against this illegality and steps taken to restore the water resources from their exploitative clutches.  We also urge upon the Govt. to give ‘shut down notices’ to all industries who are engaged in water theft.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha

Cell:                            9437050103                 

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.


  1. All products of VAL be banned, as it happens on products of units employing child labour. And not only impose 6 times penalty for cheating farmers of their rightful share of water for irrigation and lowering the water table - IT SHOULD BE AT LEAST 25 TIMES. By lowering the water table at Jharsuguda by digging unauthorised borewells, it is the townfolk and farmers who are being penalised.Their electric consumption must have doubled and quantum of water reduced. Let the Govt. n the officials not become 'WATER DALALS'. Dhiren Panda

  2. Great piece of information and writing..just keep it up. One thing which is obvious is that the Corporate -Politico - Criminal nexus will make the life of common man miserable.May it be water or other natural/ human resources - everything will be exploited and looted.Rest assured that none - the Govt. nor any other political party - will fight them .Every political part has overhand or underhand dealings with these plunderers.Everyone knows who gains from Vedant .Money and muscle are the new mantra of today's world. Crusaders are a few and very few indeed.. ...Just carry on u r good work.

  3. Thanks friends for the kind words of encouragement. The issue we raised made an impact in the Odisha assembly. However, this is not enough. We need to carry it forward and free all sources of water from the illegal and unethical encroachment of corporate bodies and industries. Please find below the latest on this issue:

    Vedanta in ‘deep water’

    Express News Service Last Updated : 18 Dec 2011 12:19:22 PM IST

    BHUBANESWAR: Even as Vedanta storm raged in the Assembly on Saturday, It is revealed that the company has not only to pay over Rs 14 crore as water dues to the State Government but also drawn huge quantity of groundwater without any agreement for the last four years.

    The Water Resources (WR) Department documents available with this paper reveal that Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, Jharsuguda, drew 1.782 lakh gallon water from bore-well without agreement since August 2008.

    The WR Department imposed six times penalty and asked Vedanta to seal all the bore-wells in September last year. As on August this year, on this count alone, Vedanta is yet to pay Rs 92.85 lakh to the Odisha Government. Besides, The Jharsuguda aluminium unit owes over Rs 10.43 crore since September 1, 2007 till August this year.

    The Vedanta Aluminium Ltd at Lanjigarh too is yet to pay another Rs 3.01 crore. A WR Department letter to Gridco revealed that the industry was paying water rate at 50 per cent of the amount due on the actual volume of water consumed basing on an agreement clause. It was later asked to execute a fresh agreement after the gazette notification in October last year and reminded several times.

    However, Vedanta asked for relaxation under the Industrial Policy Resolutions, 2001, which was rejected by the WR Department. The arrears and interest were calculated at Rs 3.01 crore.
    The ‘illegal’ withdrawal of groundwater by Vedanta has the green brigade up in arms. “Water is a major input or raw material for aluminium production. If the input is illegally procured, how can the final output be called legal,” said Ranjan Panda of Water Initiatives Orissa demanding a thorough audit on the issue.


    Thanks and regards,

    Ranjan Panda

  4. Apart from the water issue, the Highway roads are also bleeding due to the overloaded VAL alumina monstrous tankers. The roads are badly damaged. The trees adjacent to the highway have lost their greenery and are unable to breath and are covered with soot and dust. What is the Corporate Social Responsibility of VAL.

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