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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought replies of the Union and the Odishagovernments and Essar Steel BSE 0.41 % to a plea accusing the firm of drawing water from Baitarani river without forest clearance to facilitate iron ore transport.

An NGT bench of its acting Chairman Justice A S Naidu and expert member P C Mishra directed against use of the river water contrary to the agreement between the state government and the Essar Steel Orissa which was also ordered not to execute the project without Forest Clearance.

“Issue notice to the respondents both ways ie by registered post/acknowledgement due and by dasti. The water from river Baitarani shall not be used contrary to the agreement for the purpose for which the clearance has been granted. Respondent No 5 (Essar Steel) shall not go ahead with the construction of the project without obtaining Forest Clearance.

According to the bench, “List the matter on February 6, 2013, for appearance and filing replies.”

The tribunal’s order came on a plea by Odisha nativesSarbeswar Mishra and Murli Manohar Sharma, through their counsel B P Tripathy, challenging as “illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable” the decision of the Centre and the Odisha government allowing Essar Steel to draw water from the river for transportation of iron ore through slurry pipelines and for other industrial purposes.

In their plea, they have also sought NGT’s directions to restrain construction of water intake wells and pumping stations by Essar Steel for drawing water from the river.

Referring to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Essar Steel and Odisha Government on April 21, 2005 to set up a steel power plant at Paradeep in Jagatsinghpur district, the applicants said “under the project Essar Steel has proposed to set up a 10.7 MTPA capacity iron ore benefaction plant at village Dubuna in the district of Keonjhar, Odisha”.

The applicants also said in their plea that “a 253 km-long slurry transportation system is envisaged from beneficiation plant to Paradeep, which will traverse through four districts viz, Keonjhar, Jajpur, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur of Odisha.

“The beneficiation plant is located in village Dubuna and the water required for the plant and slurry pipeline will be drawn from the Baitarani river through a 9 km long water pipeline.”

The applicants have also sought directions for setting up an expert body to visit the river and to assess the “water stress” and the alleged “questionable illegal action” of Essar Steel.

In their application, they also contended that drawing water from the river will result in a change in its natural flow pattern which, in turn, would affect the Baitarani river ecosystem.

They have also contended that continuous withdrawal of water from the river without replenishment would ultimately affect the steady supply of water to nearby villagers whose livelihood depends on agriculture.

Earlier the NGT had issued notice and directed iron ore refining company Brahmani River Pellets Ltd (BRPL), promoted by UK-based Stemcor Group, not to use water from Baitarani river contrary to its agreement with the state government.

The NGT had also ordered BRPL to not go ahead with its its project without obtaining environmental clearance.

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