ADIVASIS OF BANSAPAL PROTEST AGAINST EXPANSION OF MINING – Public hearing disrupted and cancePublished by MAC on 2006-02-15
ADIVASIS OF BANSAPAL PROTEST AGAINST EXPANSION OF MINING – Public hearing disrupted and cancelled
PRESS NOTE from Keonjhar Suraksha Parishad
15th February 2006
Residents of Bansapal block, Keonhjar, yesterday fiercely voiced their opposition to the expansion of Putulipani iron ore mines by Gandhamardhan Sponge Iron limited, a private company operating in the area for more than 35 years.
At the Environment clearance public hearing, conducted for this on 15th February 2006 at Kumundi village Lakshmi, an adivasi woman, resident of the village pointed out that the Environment Impact Assessment report submitted by the company to the Regional Pollution Control Board had faulty and misleading data.
This was followed by the supporters of the company and anti-social elements trying to disrupt the hearing and physically stopping people from expressing their views and objections. Fearing violence and disruption of law and order the Pollution Control Board and District Rural Development Officer, chairing the panel were forced to cancel the hearing.
"We have seen the report for its statements on the impacts of this project on the flora and fauna. First of all the details of flora and fauna, existing in the area are very inadequate. The Putulipani mines are located in the Gandhamardhan hill ranges of the Bansapal block, which is an area that has a wide variety of wildlife and faunal and floral diversity. This has not been reported" Lakshmi Munda said.
Before her, some other residents in their testimonies pointed out that, in the last 45 years of its operations in the area, this company had made no contribution to the social development of the area. "The report states that various health, educational, recreational and infrastructure facilities will be provided by the company for villages in the area. We see this as a false promise and lip service only to obtain easy clearance from the government." Said one of the young tribal activists.
People in their testimonies talked about the increasing iron ore mining activity in the region and its impacts on drinking water sources. The petition submitted by a local people's organization states: "Almost nine streams were flowing in the area before the mining activity. At present there is only one left. The mines have severely contaminated drinking water sources." The petition also demanded to know if the company had acquired a forest clearance from the MoEF for the forestland that it is mining.
"The money contributed by these companies is used for the beautification of the Keonjhar town and the Collectorate office. Our health and education are not the priority for the government". This point was raised by one of the villagers.
This was not the first time that the people of Bansapal block in the district have raised their voices against indiscriminate mining. On 31st October a public hearing for the environment clearance to Orissa Sponge Iron Limited, one of the mining companies coming up in the area, met with huge protests from the locals. A group of 70 people from Bansapal also demonstrated outside the office of the State Pollution control Board on the 7 th of November 2005 to draw attention to the disastrous consequences of iron-ore mining for the Gandhamardhan hills and its people.
Keonjhar is a part of the iron ore belt of the country with more than 100 mines operational. Suspended Particulate Matter is the main pollutant in the iron-ore belt of Keonjhar. Respiratory diseases and problems like TB, skin ecsema are becoming increasingly commonplace among the local population. Accidents as a result of increasing truck movements are becoming frequent.
Local groups have been demanding that a study of the impacts of air pollutants on the health of the villages in the area be conducted immediately before setting up or expansion of any mining activity.
However, the State government and the Pollution Control Board have taken no action on this so far. Almost ten mining companies, including POSCO, are vying for the iron ore in the Gandhamardhan hill range. A total area of about 2000 hectares in these forested hills will be affected by this. The area is under Schedule V of the constitution with more than 70% tribal population.