The Rs 4,000-crore alumina refinery project of Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL) in Kashipur, Rayagada district, seems destined to be further delayed. The project, which has been hanging fire for the last 16 years, is facing fresh trouble from local inhabitants. ”Work on the site has stopped for the last three weeks as project-affected people prevented the contractors from executing the works, demanding higher benefits”, says a project top official.
Project construction work had recently gathered momentum and the promoters had been targeting commissioning the unit in 2010. With local agitators blocking the work, it is feared the project may miss the deadline yet again.
The UAIL refinery was conceived in the early 90s to tap the huge bauxite reserves and produce alumina. Since its inception, the project has been in the line of fire of environmentalists and local people.
Worried over the delay in implementation, the two original joint venture partners, Tata Sons and Norsk Hydro had pulled out of the project, while another foreign partner, Alcan, sold its stake last year. The project is now fully owned by the Aditya Birla group. After concerted efforts of the administration and the company, and redrawing of the project map, construction restarted in 2005.
As redrawing of the map required leveling of some small hillocks in the area, it had considerably slowed down the site grading and leveling work before the civil foundation construction could be taken up, says the official. In addition, intermittent stoppage of work by the local people had also affected the progress. This had interrupted project work for 60 days in 2005, 55 days in 2006 and 127 days in 2007, he said.
The company has already spent over Rs 530 crore and has placed orders for about Rs 1,800 crore worth of equipment. ”We were planning to further speed up the work by increasing the workforce to 5,000 people”, says the official.