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HC admits plea on Baitarani

Cuttack, Dec. 7: Orissa High Court has allowed a public interest litigation that implicates all industries drawing water from Baitarani river.

The PIL sought judicial intervention against the laying of a pipeline by Essar Steel Odisha Limited (ESOL) for transportation of iron ore in slurry form from Keonjhar to Paradip because the project will draw a lot of water from the Baitarani, which is already under stress. ESOL, a subsidiary of Essar Steel, is working on the pipeline for the six-million-ton-per-annum steel pellet factory it is setting up at Paradip.

The division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra, before which the PIL came up on Thursday, issued notices to the state government to file its response within two weeks.

Rabindra Mallick and five other residents of Jajpur, Keonjhar and Bhadrak districts had filed the PIL alleging that ESOL had started work on the pipeline without getting an environment clearance.

The court added that hearing on the PIL would be taken up after the petitioners filed an amended petition naming as opposite parties all the industries drawing water from the Baitarani. The petitioners had alleged that 112 industries were drawing huge quantities of water from the river and they should be implicated in the PIL.

Water scarcity at the time of need will ruin the future of farmers of Jajpur, Keonjhar and Bhadrak unless these companies are restricted. Baitarani is the lifeline of people in these districts, the PIL contended.

The people of the three districts have been opposing the use of water from the river for industries for the past three years.

The National Green Tribunal had on November 21 asked the state government not to allow Brahmani River Pellets Limited (BRPL), which is setting up a pellet plant at Kalinga Nagar, to use water from the river.

The tribunalís national bench issued the interim order on a petition filed by the convener of Baitarani Banchao Andolan, Murali Manohar Sharma.

It was alleged that huge quantities of water were being drawn from Baitarani for ore beneficiation and slurry transportation without environmental clearance. The interim order said water should not be used contrary to the agreement or the purpose for which clearance was granted.