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Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd. lobbied the Indian government to weaken key environmental regulations related to oil and mining during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
As a result, New Delhi implemented some changes to its green rules without public consultations, the global network of investigative journalists said in a report. Vedanta also lobbied to ensure companies could mine as much as 50% more than their usual output without new environmental approvals, it added.
A Vedanta spokesperson said in a text message that the company operates with an objective of import substitution by enhancing domestic production in a sustainable manner. “In view of the same, continuous representations are submitted for consideration to the government in the best interest of national development and India’s march toward self-reliance in natural resources.”
The report comes at a time when Agarwal is seeking to boost revenues to shore up cash for his parent firm’s debt repayment and a possible separation of some of its businesses to boost value.
It could also intensify the debate on burning environmental issues, ranging from tiger habitats to pollution. Protests on these issues have hit some major industrial projects, including those of Vedanta and South Korea’s Posco Holdings Inc., and limited investments by global mining majors into the South Asian nation.
Cairn India Ltd., a unit of Vedanta, also successfully pushed to get public hearings scrapped for exploratory drilling in oil blocks, the report said. Six of Cairn’s oil projects in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan have been approved despite local opposition, according to OCCRP.
A spokesperson for India’s environment ministry said it may respond later.
The report on Vedanta follows an investigation by OCCRP on billionaire Gautam Adani’s ports to mining conglomerate this week.
Shares of Vedanta rose as much as 1.9% in Mumbai Friday.
–With assistance from P R Sanjai and Bibhudatta Pradhan.
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