MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining will destroy Niyamgiri: WII

Published by MAC on 2006-08-21
Source: Wildlife Institute of India

Mining will destroy Niyamgiri: WII

21st August 2006

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government's proposal for mining of bauxite from the Nyam- giri hills for the Vedanta Alumina Limited's (VAL) project at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district received a jolt with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) observing that it would dry up ground water in the region and consequently affect the quality of habitats.

In its report submitted to the Supreme Court recently, the WII has mentioned that the Niyam- giri hills are source of the Vansadhara and Nagabali rivers. Besides, 36 streams originate from the hills. Majority of the streams have originated from the lowermost contour of the bauxite layer.

The bauxite layer which is formed through leaching also acts as a layer for imbibing water and releasing it slowly throughout the year, it said, added that mining activities in this region would adversely impact this process.

Contradicting the environment impact assessment (EIA) report of Lanjigarh bauxite mine, in which these areas are defined as unproductive and tree deficient areas not useful for wildlife and forests, the WII observed that these plateaus are very productive with high occurrence of herbivore and carnivore species.

These areas are breeding and fawning ground of four- horned antelope, barking deer and several other species, it added.

Mining would also affect the economies of two major tribes, Sauras and Kondhs, who inhabit the area. Their economies are forest based, agriculture, labor and domestic animal husbandry. Around 50 percent of their annual income is derived from 'siali' leaves, 'harida', 'char' and 'sal' seeds, hill broom and honey.

The report observed that various kinds of environmental degradations are associated with open cast mining proposed for the project. These are landscape changes, loss of forest, land degradation, loss of flora, fauna and habitat, land vibration, air and water quality reduction.

Mining would also bring changes in geomorphology of the area and enhance several other consequences leading to soil erosion and impact on drainage and forest productivity.

Mine site preparation and access of road to hilltop involve removal of prime vegetation cover. This will destroy several wildlife associates of this habitat and reduce diversity of tropical moist deciduous forest.

Besides, the area proposed for clearing of trees for alignment of road also harbours giant squirrel, a highly endangered canopy dwelling species, that inhabit specialised habitats characterised by closed canopy forests, it said and added that cutting of trees in the area would lead to the destruction of canopy cover critical for presence of such species.

Exodus of people involved in mining activities would also exert pressure on residual natural resources, it said and added that reduction in the number of some endangered species of plants and animals will be eminent and unavoidable.

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