MAC: Mines and Communities

From An Observer In The Vedanta Area (december 5th 2004):

Published by MAC on 2004-12-05

From an observer in the Vedanta area (December 5th 2004):

"No-one, I repeat NO-ONE, will be allowed to stand in the way of Orissa's industrialization and the people's progress". This was a statement made by Naveen Patnaik which was on Oriya [Orissa) TV news yesterday.

The two alumina projects (Vedanta/Sterlite/Balco at Lanjigarh to mine Niyamgiri Mountain, and the Utkal project of Alcan with Indal-Hindalco (Birla) at Kashipur) are being pushed ahead forcefully, with strong police repression, gathering momentum in the last 3 weeks. So is a chromite mine at Tangarpadar in Dhenkanal (N.Orissa), despite an Orissa High Court judgement that's just declared this deal illegal, and is likely to make a similar judgement about Vedanta.

The issue is now going to the Supreme Court in Delhi.

Meanwhile at Lanjigarh the alumina refinery is being built at great speed... In the Niyamgiris themselves the Dongria (Hill) Konds [Indigenous communities] are in a state of great disturbance.....they feel their whole culture is under attack - as it is. The forest here is fantastic - among the best stands in Orissa, and the DFO (Div. Forest Officer) in Rayagada has refused forest clearance for the project, on the grounds that the Reserved Forest at the top of the ridge (4,000 ft) is of prime importance etc. he Bank...

In Kashipur, where the Utkal project's been stalled 12 yrs, the police oppression and attacks on Ramibera and other tribal "resistance villages" is very bad. They're building a whole concrete police post 2 kms from Kucheipadar village [in the lease area]. This is apparently being done under the Collector of Kalahandi, Yashwant Mishra, a former Balco [Vedanta] employee,as well as local Congress and BJD political leaders.

The PSSP (Natural Resources Defence Council, centred at Kucheipadar) is holding a rally on 7th Dec, in preparation for that on 16th, which commemorates the 4th anniversary of the police firing at Maikanch that killed 3 tribal people.

There's an urgent need to get this news out, since Vedanta's had hardly any adverse news in the UK despite its massively polluting irregularities at the Tuticorn copper smelter in SouthIndia, as well as here in Orissa..... The movement against these projects is one of the main movements supported by Arundhati Roy and all those who are mindful of tribal people and their issues in India. So please spread this news and take what action you can!

Another report from the same source: December 2nd 2004

A letter's been leaked from the District Forestry Officer (DFO) in Rayagada [site of the Utkal project]to his superiors complaining about outstanding irregularities... 100 hectares of forest land is being taken by the company without permission. 3,200,000 rupees has been spent by the company apparently making illegal donations to BJD [government party] and Congress from informed sources in the Orissa government.

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