India: Protests against Hindalco mining lease in Odisha’s KoraputPublished by MAC on 2021-11-26
Source: NAPM India, Indian Express
Opposition to the mining activities in Maliparbat goes back to 2003.
A public hearing for Hindalco’s Maliparbat bauxite project was held with heavy security on November 22, 2021, at Koraput, Odisha. The adivasis of over 44 villages and the media were denied entry to the venue where the public hearing was held. They were detained by police 3 km away from the meeting. The venue was cordoned off with iron wire fencing across a three kilometer radius from the nearby hills. A drone camera was also used to keep an eye on protestors trying to sneak into the meeting place.
The Palli Sabha venue turned into a fortress as 30 platoons of police force were deployed. On September 22, tribals had opposed the Palli Sabha meeting at the same place and vandalised the meeting venue protesting the proposed bauxite mining. Police had arrested 28 villagers from peripheral communities of Maliparbat. On Sunday, another six villagers were arrested by the police to avert law and order situation during the public hearing.
Update provided by Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik
Protests against a mining lease to Hindalco in Odisha’s Koraput
Despite resistance, a public hearing on mining in Mali hills in Koraput district of Odisha was held on Monday. It was on environmental issues regarding the mining lease granted to Hindalco Industries Ltd.
November 24, 2021
Despite public resistance, the Koraput district administration in Odisha organised a public hearing on Monday (November 22) on environmental issues regarding the mining lease granted to Hindalco Industries Ltd. The hearing was held amid strict police force deployment, and after over 30 protesting activists and villages were taken into preventive custody. The event was held two months after a public hearing on the same was cancelled due to protests.
The hearing was organised by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), on a report it submitted to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on mining bauxite in the Maliparbat hill. Villagers and environmentalists have called it a gross violation of their “fundamental rights”, and will challenge the SPCB report.
What is the hearing about?
The Maliparbat hill, spread over 270 acres and 40 km from Koraput at Doliamba village, is rich in bauxite resources. It is estimated to have a total bauxite reserve of 14 million tonnes. It was leased to Hindalco in 2006, but the mining company failed to carry out any operations due to stiff resistance from the tribals, which resulted in the expiry of the lease terms. The bauxite excavation had begun for a very brief period in 2012, but was halted again due to resistance to the transportation of the mineral.
In April 2021, the expert appraisal committee of the MoEF&CC considered its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and permitted it to conduct a public hearing for environmental clearance.
Why is there public resistance?
Tribals residing in nearby villages have alleged that mining activities in Maliparbat would affect around 42 villages under Sorishapodar, Dalaiguda and Pakhajhola panchayats. Environmentalists have also said that mining would deplete water sources from around 32 perennial streams and four canals in Maliparbat, adversely affecting the livelihoods of the tribals. The Mali and forest area are inhabited by members of Kondha, Paraja and Gadaba tribes.
On November 18, women from different villages under Semiliguda block had gathered at the Collectorate and resisted the hearing scheduled for Monday on grounds that most of their senior leaders who have led the protest were behind bars.
What happened during the previous hearing?
A previous hearing scheduled on September 22 was cancelled after villagers faced off with the district administration and Hindalco officials in Kankaramba village. As many as 28 people were arrested based on an FIR filed by an assistant sub-inspector of Semiliguda police station, under charges of rioting, armed with deadly weapons, causing hurt to a public servant, causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons, attempt to murder and criminal intimidation.
A background of the conflict
The opposition to the mining activities in Maliparbat dates back to 2003, when a public hearing was organised by the Odisha SPCB for environmental clearance. After a lease was granted to Hindalco, villagers had alleged that their grievances and objections to the project were ignored in the final report to the MoEF&CC.
In its lease agreement, the company was given the approval to extract 0.6 million tonnes of bauxite from the hill per year. The environmental clearance of the company expired in 2011. After MoEF&CC permitted a public hearing for environmental clearance, the SPCB organised the public hearing on September 22, which was disrupted by protests. It was then rescheduled to November 22.
Urgent Appeal for Solidarity: Call Odisha Authorities: Stop destructive bauxite mining proposals in Mali Parbat, Koraput, Odisha
Urgent Appeal for Solidarity with the adivasi & dalit farmers of Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, protesting against the proposed bauxite mining: Call Authorities Now!
National Alliance of People’s Movements
21 sept 2021
Cancel the ‘Public Hearing’ | Withdraw Environmentally Destructive Mining Project in Mali Parbat
21st Sep, 2021: National Alliance of People’s Movements expresses deep concern at the decision of Govt. of Odisha to push bauxite mining in the Schedule - V adivasi-belt of Mali Parbat, Koraput Dist. against the consent and interests of the people, especially adivasi and dalit farmers. Well-aware of the deleterious impacts of mining, the villagers, organized as Mali Parvat Surakhya Samiti have been resisting the Hindalco bauxite mining project proposal since many years. The immediate urgency now is the ‘environmental public hearing’ scheduled for tomorrow.
We have learnt from ground sources that the company has ‘hired goons from different parts of Koraput’ to prevent people from expressing their dissent to the mining proposal at the public hearing, by putting up check gates, road blockades, etc. Reportedly, the company has also been 'distributing money to SHGs members' in many villages and those who are refusing the money, are being abused and intimidated. With little support from the pro-state media and the threat from police and para military, the community members are trying hard to get their message across for wider solidarity. A video prepared by them in this regard is enclosed.
In the video, one of the key leaders of the movement states that they are “burning the Vimta Labs (consultant) prepared EIA report, as it is replete with lies and false information”. He says, “the report states falsely that there is no forest in the mining lease region, that there are no grass patches, no animals, no flora and fauna of any value and no perennial water sources or streams. Therefore, the Samiti is burning the report to warn the government that if it does not cancel the mining lease, the Samiti will launch a huge resistance and even if they have to give their lives they will not allow mining to take place on Maliparbat”.
Considering the tense situation in the region and imminent threat to people's rights, we urge concerned citizens, activists, environmental and people’s organizations to call the authorities immediately and ensure that:
a. No form of threat, violence, intimidation is resorted to by the Govt, police, para-military, company officials or goons on the villagers.
b. The procedure established as per the Environment Protection Act, EIA Notification 2006, PESA Act, 1996 and Forest Rights Act, 2006 is fully followed.
c. The demands of the local people to cancel the public hearing, reject the deeply problematic EIA and withdraw the destructive bauxite mining in Maliparbat is heeded.
NUMBERS TO CALL & E-MAILS
You can also tweet by tagging the following handles and demand that the Public Hearing be cancelled, bauxite mining proposals in Mali Parbat be withdrawn and Adivasi rights in Koraput be upheld by the Governor & Chief Minister
• Governor of Odisha - Ganeshi Lal Tweet @GovernorOdisha
• Chief Minister- Naveen Pattnaik @Naveen_Odisha
• Chief Secretary, Govt of Odisha Tweet @SecyChief
• Home department, Govt of Odisha Tweet @homeodisha
• SC & ST department and Minister Tweet @stscdev
• Tribal Affairs, Govt of India Tweet @TribalAffairsIn
• District Collector, Koraput Tweet @dmkoraput
• SP Koraput, Tweet @SPkoraput
• DIG south western range, Koraput Tweet @digswrkoraput
• Odisha State Pollution Control Board Tweet @ospcb123
Brief Background of the Issues:
Activists who have been following this issue closely in Odisha state that about 44 villages around Mali Parbat shall be affected directly and more than 200 villages shall be affected indirectly. Villagers claim that numerous streams flow from hill or enrich the soil moisture. There are 32 perennial streams and four canals that emerge from this hill. Nearly 2,500 families living in 44 villages rely on this water for irrigation of their fields and take up vegetable and other cultivation. Mining will significantly affect the streams and soil moisture and thereby devastating a thriving livelihoods option for the local people. Other likely hazards due to the mining include water and soil pollution. Dumping of oil, lubricants and other waste material of the mining area will have huge adverse bearing on water, land and forest resources of the region.
Locals allege that neither the company nor the government officials have clearly explained to the villagers the adverse impact of adverse effects of mining. There is a serious complaint about the manner in which Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process has been approached. They contend that the EIA report for the mining project, prepared by VIMTA Laboratory Pvt. Ltd. of Hyderabad, has totally neglected and disregarded impact of mining on the water sources and subsequent consequence on agriculture and horticulture.
While adverse impacts on water resources is likely to be catastrophic and permanent in nature, serious land degradation is likely to be huge too. That aspect has also not been assessed and recorded in the EIA. Soil erosion due to mining and deforestation is already among the highest in Odisha. Koraput already has other bauxite mines, including Deomali. That region is reeling under very serious soil erosion and land degradation. Mining of Mali Parbat will surely increase manifold the rate of soil and land degradation. This area comes under the catchment area of Upper Kolab Reservoir. Thus, erosion will lead to huge silt deposition in the Kolab reservoir which has already lost a lot of storage capacity due to massive siltation. Such siltation will greatly undermine efficiency of the reservoir in producing electricity and providing irrigation. Even the life span of the dam will be immensely threatened.
Mali Parbat is home to many rare medicinal plants and species like Hada sakada, Patala garuda, Bhuin Penga, Haladi kanda, Kalad Kanda, Anala, Bahada, Harida, Pita kanda (all are local names) etc. Mining will affect these rare medicinal plants. Many rare species and plants like Pitakonda, Taraka konda, Kakudi plant, Charu koli plants are also available in this hill. They are part of local people’s food, nutrition and medicinal eco-system. Mining will have an adverse effect on all these rare plants. Similarly, the hills are a natural habitat of Bear, Sambar, Kutura, Peacock etc. Mining activities along with increased human ingress, vehicular movement etc will affect the animal habitation.
Not just environmental stakes, people have direct religious and cultural connect with the hills.There is a religious place of the adivasis in the Mali Parbat known as Pakuli Pahar Gumpha (sacred cave). The deity of this religious place is worshiped by the villagers of surrounding villages Aligon, Kumbhiguda, Daleiguda, Rajaniguda, Pakijhola, Mania etc. Many religions and cultural practices of local people are associated with Pakuli Pahar Gumpha. This old religious place will be destroyed by mining. What makes the issue hazier and more threatening is the mining company’s eagerness to get lot more land that what is required and whose affect have not been properly assessed.
It is high time the Govt. of Odisha heeds to the demands of this two-decades old struggle of adivasis and withdraws the proposals for bauxite mining completely.
With inputs from activists and people’s organizations in Odisha. In solidarity: National Alliance of People’s Movements.