Call To Oppose Anrak’s Integrated Aluminium Complex At Rachapalli

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) takes strong objection to the manner in which the AP Pollution Control Board (APPCB) is seeking to hold a public hearing on June 7 at Rachapalli village in Makavaripalem mandal of Visakhapatnam district for the proposed integrated aluminium complex of Anrak Aluminium Ltd. Setting in motion the process of public hearing for the proposed alumina refinery and smelter does not make any sense when requisite clearances to mine bauxite in the Jerrela region of Vizag Agency have yet to be obtained by the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC).

As per norms, such a public hearing must be held only after ensuring that all the relevant information pertaining to the project has been made available to the people in a comprehensive manner and sufficient time is given to them to discuss and debate the information. This has also not happened.

The Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report is clearly inadequate. There is no independent and comprehensive EIA of the project that examines the bauxite mine, refinery, smelter, power plant and other components in a holistic manner. An alumina refinery cannot be run without bauxite. However, the project promoters and the State government are deliberately bifurcating the bauxite mining and refining portion. Instead of discussing the combined impact of all these projects, the promoters and the government have split the project into small parts where each is to be evaluated on its own making it impossible to understand the overall impact.

What is even more of a concern is that if the refinery is approved it will be used to blackmail a clearance for the bauxite mines in the Visakhapatnam Scheduled area. With Anrak having a Rs 3465 crore newly built refinery and a Rs 3100 crore smelter and more investments promised, how will a future environmental clearance for the bauxite mines at Jerrela of Visakhapatnam be refused even if found to be environmentally and socially detrimental? There is no other source of bauxite for the company. A cumulative approach to environmental protection from multiple related projects is missing. This makes the entire clearance process a sham when interdependent projects are split this way.

The matter of land acquisition is equally dubious. How can land already be acquired before the publication of the EIA report and the public consulted through the public hearing process? The letter from APIIC dated April 4, 2008 referenced on p. 264 of the EIA report mentions the payment of Rs 15 crore for an initial deposit towards 923.60 acres of land (Rs 16,2407 per acre). What is the meaning of this deposit? If only 37 hectares (p.7) is government land then why is the government accepting all this money? The unclear discussion on land acquisition in the EIA makes it seem like the entire acquisition is already foregone. What is the point of making an EIA and having a public hearing if the entire project has already been decided on? 

As is well known, alumina refineries and smelters are notoriously water hungry and therefore the question of where they will source the required water from is a matter of serious concern. Anrak has been promised 10 mgd to be taken from the Visakhapatnam Industrial Water Company (Viwsco). Given lack of sufficient water for irrigation, domestic and existing industrial needs in the area, how can such a large amount be handed over to Anrak? Moreover, official documents indicate unavailability of water on such a scale. Importantly, Anrak is yet to enter into an agreement for supply of 10 mgd of water with Viwsco, while the EIA states that the GVMC has agreed to allot the water. Does this mean that water meant for Vizag city will be diverted to Anrak? This is bound to undermine water security in the region   Handing over such a huge amount of water to profit-obsessed industries and depriving citizens of their legitimate share is unacceptable.

The alumina refining process is an environmentally destructive one that can have serious effects not only on natural resources but also human health. Water sources and farm land can get contaminated from toxic wastes. The Anrak project will create 18 lakh tonnes of toxic red mud per year in the initial stages and after expansion 36 lakh tonnes per year. During estimated operations for 30 years this will become 540 lakh tonnes and 1080 lakh tonnes of waste depending on the scale of operations in the Makavaripalem area. There is an inherent danger of red mud ponds since it is a highly toxic substance that contains heavy metals, toxic alkaline chemicals and radioactive elements. These substances may leach the ground water and despite precautions there is no guarantee against contamination of local soil and water.

The HRF calls upon the people of Rachapalli, Koduru, Ramannapalem, Erakannapalem, Venkatapuram, Tamaram, Dharmavaram, Kothapalem and other villages in Makavaripalem mandal to voice their emphatic opposition to the proposed integrated aluminium complex at the public hearing slated for June 7. We believe that such destructive projects will devastate the lives and livelihoods of Adivasis as well as plainspeople and cause irrepairable damage to the environment. The Anrak project will give next to nothing in terms of jobs to the locals who have been dispossessed. Bauxite mining as well as refining for alumina and then aluminium is unviable in legal, social and environmental terms. There has not been any transparency, public scrutiny or democratic debate of these projects which will leave permanent scars in both the forest region as well as the plains.

V S Krishna – State secretary, HRF


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