The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fire for Visa, Vedanta

Bhubaneswar, March 27: An FIR over alleged illegal use of groundwater and a firing by a private security guard, critically injuring one, clouded the industrial skyline of Orissa today.

While Jajpur district administration filed an FIR against Visa Steel for illegal use of groundwater at its Kalinganagar plant, tension sparked at Vedanta Alumina’s smelter plant in Bhokamunda of Jharsuguda district when a private security guard fired at the local villagers, critically injuring one.

Visa Steel — which is building a 50,000-tonne-per-annum ferro chrome plant, a 3,00,000-TPA sponge iron plant, a 50-MW power plant and a 0.5-million-TPA special and stainless steel plant at Kalinganagar — uses about eight lakh gallon of water every month using deep borewells.

Vedanta is a Rs 7000-crore project being implemented in two phases of 250,000 tonne each per annum — the first phase is expected to complete by 2009 and the second phase by 2010.

Jajpur district administration is apparently furious that despite several reminders, Visa continues to draw groundwater. “As per the MoU, they should draw water from Brahmani river by laying their own pipeline. But they continue to draw water from the ground, which has reduced the water levels substantially,” said Jajpur collector Arabinda Padhee.

Company sources said the MoU allows them to use water from multiple sources. “We can draw water from the ground, river or get it through the Idco supply pipeline,” said Visa Steel vice-president (corporate) Jagat Parija.

In case of Vedanta, the police said, security guard Dhruba Deo guarding the construction equipment of Simplex, a contractor employed by Vedanta, reportedly opened fire when seven unidentified men was allegedly stealing iron rods early today.

“Krushna Chandra was injured on his right arm, while others managed to escape,” said Antaryami Pradhan of Barmal police outpost. “Krushna’s father, however, has alleged in a counter-FIR that his son was shot at while he had gone to answer nature’s call.”

Vedanta officials said they had no information regarding the shootout.

General manager (smelter) Dilip Patnaik said: “I have inquired from my staff present at the site but no such incident has taken place.”

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