MAC: Mines and Communities

Two demonstrations against Vedanta - in one week

Published by MAC on 2005-12-09

Two demonstrations against Vedanta - in one week

9th December 2005

A year after the Indian Supreme Court first condemned the activities of UK-based Vedanta Resources plc in Orissa, last week the state opened a Public Hearing, to entertain objections to the company's proposal to construct an aluminium smelter. The District Collector - who is supposed to oversee such hearings - was conspicuous by his absence. More than 500 people from the neighbouring towns of Sundergarh, Sambalpur and Jharsuguda, gathered in protest. The Indian Supreme Court (SC) has still not issued a verdict on Vedanta's highly-controversial Lanjigarh alumina refinery, and the SC itself issued a note, demanding that the Hearing be cancelled.

Only four days previously, tribal members - including many directly impacted by Vedanta's operations and plans - also demonstrated against the company in front of the state's Assembly building.

Meanwhile, the British press has continued to observe a shocking silence on one of the worst current violations of Indigenous peoples' rights anywhere by a UK mining company.


Press Release: from Manshi Asher, Orissa

9th December 2005

More than 500 people gathered at the Jharsuguda town hall today to protest against the Environment Clearance Public hearing for Vedanta's proposed 2,50,000 TPA Smelter Plant project at Bhrukumunda village. Local communities, political party members, citizens of the town and members of some voluntary organizations came together and demanded that the District Administration cancel the Public Hearing. Activists said that the smelter plant is a subsidiary of the company's aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh, a project that is a matter sub-judice in the Supreme Court of India. "Any work on this project is a part of the Lanjigarh refinery since the raw material for the smelter plant would come from there" pointed out activists.

Two months ago the Central Empowered Committee in its recommendations on the case to the Supreme Court stated that " the honourable court may consider revoking the environment clearance dated 22.9.04 granted by the MoEF for setting up of the Alumina Refinery plant by M/s Vedanta and directing the m to stop work on the project". The committee in its recommendations was critical of the state government and the MOEF for "the casual approach and the lack sidle manner and the haste" with which the environment and forest clearances for the refinery and the mining site were granted. The Supreme Court's judgment on the recommendations is still awaited.

An objection filed to the State Pollution Control Board on the Proposed Smelter Plant Project also states that the EIA report for the proposed plant by VIMTA labs is highly unsatisfactory and doesn't conform to the guidelines of the MoEF, GOI. It says that the report provides deliberately misleading data as well as false information. The objection goes on to point out the possible adverse impacts of the proposed plant on the local climate, biodiversity, and water resources as well as lives of the people in the region. The area within 10 kms. radius of the proposed smelter plant is already congested with several sponge iron plants and the huge Bhushan Steel unit. The cumulative impacts of the pollution caused by these industries have to be considered before any new plants are set up.

It is surprising that in spite of receiving criticism from all quarters for the manner in which the state has gone about the environment clearance procedures in the Vedanta case, it continues to repeat the same behaviour again and again. The district administration and Pollution Control board went ahead with the hearing today in spite of a legal notice filed by the Supreme Court lawyer to the State Pollution Contro Board stating that the matter is subjudice and the notice of the hearing on the 9 th must be withdrawn.'

The collector, who is supposed to Chair the Public Hearing panel was absent. The Sub -collector who chaired the panel said that it was for the government and not the public to decide if this Public hearing is illegal.

Tribals’ protest against Vedanta

5th December 2005

Statesman News Service BHUBANESWAR. Hundreds of tribals from Rayagada and Kalahandi districts today staged a demonstration in front of the Assembly urging the state government to shelve the proposed alumina plant and bauxite mining project in Lanjigarh area in compliance with the recommendation of the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court.

They threatened to continue their movement in exchange of their lives till this “anti-people’’ and “anti-environment” project was withdrawn. The Vedanta Alumina Limited, a joint venture company of Sterlite and the state government, is setting up an alumina plant and a mining project in Lanjigarh area, amidst protest from local tribals, environmentalists and Opposition parties.

Dressed in their traditional attire and armed with traditional weapons tribals from the affected areas took out a rally and staged a demonstration in front of the Assembly. The demonstrators were shouting slogans and singing songs in Kui language accompanied by traditional musical instruments.

Leaders of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Abhiyan, which is spearheading the anti-alumina plant agitation, said that the proposed project would not only displace thousands of local tribals, depriving them of their livelihood, it would also destroy the fragile eco system of the Niyamgiri hills.

The Vanshadhara and the Nagabali rivers emerging from the hills would dry up, leading to drying up of the command area. Rich flora and fauna on the hills would vanish. The primitive Dongria Kondh living in the Niyamgairi hills would be greatly affected, they alleged.

The state government has shown undue favours by allowing the Vedanta company to set up an alumina plant and leasing out the bauxite mines in violation of forest laws despite protest from local Dongria Kondhs, they alleged adding that the company and the state government had initiated repressive measures on the agitating tribals. Despite the Central Empowered Committee’s recommendation to stop the project, the state government was forcibly carrying on land acquisition and conniving with the company in its illegal activities, charged the tribals.

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