India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-06-10
10th June 2006
Orissa's main opposition party, Congress, has urged the cancellation of all existing state mining leases, with future leases granted only to the state's mining corporation. It's also offered its backing to people likely to be rendered landless if the huge Posco steel plant goes head. Enthusiasm over these annoucements should, however, be tempered by knowledge that, under former chief minister, JB Patnaik, the Orissa Congress party bulldozed through some highly damaging mining projects, including the notorious Utkal alumininum joint venture (between Alcan and Hindalco).
The Congress-led central government is doing bulldozing of its own, as it maps out amendments to the 49-year old mining act, aimed at speeding up promised new investments in iron/steel, like Posco's.
Meanwhile, as the current Orissa chief minister laments increased desertification in western Orissa, well-known environmentalist, Biswajit Mohanty, warns that mining is only contributing to it. If all the planned steel plants materialised, Mohanty warns that "the water supply from the Mahanadi, Brahmani and Baitarani rivers would have to go up".
Add to this global greenhouse gas emissions from future coal burning and, according to Mr Mohanty, "GHG emission from Orissa is estimated to jump to seven to ten per cent of global levels by 2010."
An article from the latest issue of "Ethical Corporation" touts Tata's record for corporate social responsiblity. Although it deals a mild rebuke to the company for its failure to "defend" itself against accusations surrounding this January's Kalinganagar masscre and a recent report criticising conditions at the company's tea plantations, it completely ignores Tata's extremely aggressive recent moves on indigenous lands and people.