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Thread: The Earth is Rumbling: Niyamgiri being destroyed by Vedanta

  1. #1
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    Default The Earth is Rumbling: Niyamgiri being destroyed by Vedanta

    Sharing an article from the Outlook written by Anuradha Raman, regarding the Dongria Kondhs and Niyamgiri hills that is going to be devastated by the Vedanta project.
    Mrudul

    The Earth Is Rumbling
    The tribespeople of Kalahandi oppose Vedanta’s takeover of a region they hold in reverence
    ANURADHA RAMAN
    For the last one year, the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district of southwestern Orissa have been reverberating with protests and demonstrations. The tribals of the area—the Khonds, Kutiyas and Jharaniyas, who worship the hills as living gods—are taking on Vedanta, a UK-based mining major that has acquired a licence from the government to exploit the abundant bauxite reserves in the pristine region.

    But matters took a curious turn last month. After hearing a representation made by tribal leaders, the Church of England (CoE), an investor in Vedanta, decided to review the situation arising out of the conflict between the tribals and the company and did not rule out pulling out of Vedanta for ethical considerations. The church’s shareholdings in Vedanta are worth Rs 20 crore, a small stake in a Rs 3,000-crore company. But if the CoE pulls out, the action will carry tremendous symbolic power and will prove a shot in the arm for environmental activists, who have been alleging all along that Vedanta is violating laws and displacing tribals from their traditional habitat. The church will take a final decision after its ethical investment advisory group meets later this month; but by all accounts, a pullout seems likely.

    Meanwhile, in Niyamgiri, tensions are running high. Early last month, protesters torched a jeep they believed was on a recce of bauxite reserves in the hills. Skirmishes between Vedanta staff and tribals take place off and on. The tribespeople’s anger is perceptible. “Why aren’t the tribals of Niyamgiri in Orissa being heard? Why is the abode of my gods being mined?” asks Kumti Manjhi, a tribal leader who’d travelled to England to get the church to turn its ears to his people’s complaints. “The hill is my god. Will the government agree to mine mountains in other parts of the country on which other gods are believed to reside? I worship Niyamgiri. It has helped generations of my people survive. Aren’t the religious sentiments of tribals respected in this country? I’ve been to jail thrice fighting for our rights. I fear no one.” Of his forceful presentation before the church, organised with the help of friends, Manjhi says, “I told them: ‘If you destroy my gods, I will destroy yours.’” Rather than the threat itself, what seems to have made the church reconsider the ethics of its investment in Vedanta is Manjhi’s ardour and his concomitant sense of utter helplessness in the face of a state-corporate behemoth.


    “These hills are like my father to me. How can I watch quietly when they are dishonoured and violated?”—Nathu Manjhi, a tribal

    Conflicts between tribals and the state are nothing new—especially when they are portrayed as a struggle between the modern (read progressive governments and corporates) and the primitive (read tribals). Vedanta, in partnership with the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation, promises to put India on the global map as undisputed leader in production of iron ore, aluminium and zinc. But the tribals are asking if this should be at the cost of destroying their habitat, with which, in their animist traditions, they engage in a sacred covenant.

    And environment activists ask if there can ever be another Niyamgiri once the mining starts. A visit there is a trip to paradise—lush greenery, scores of streams crisscrossing the mountains, rich soil, an abundance of wildlife. In fact much of the region is protected under Section 18 of the Indian Wildlife Act, and the Orissa government had declared it an elephant reserve as recently as 2004. But once the mining begins, the ecosystem will be lost.

    The controversy broke out following an MoU signed in 2004 between the Orissa government and Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, for establishing a bauxite mine on Niyamgiri hills and an aluminium refinery on the foothills. The company hoped to mine over a million tonnes of bauxite, having obtained the rights to 721.3 hectares, including 672 hectares of forest land. A conveyor belt, not fully assembled yet, stretches downhill. The tribals complain about the detours they have to take around it. Environmentalists fear the approach roads will prove the end of the wealth of flora and fauna in the area.

    But how did Vedanta manage to get its mining plans okayed? A careful examination of the various clearances required to start mining in an area that was declared to be rich in biodiversity by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, reveals the role of both the state government and the Union ministry of environment & forests. The ministry gave its clearance on April 26, 2009—just two days after a public hearing was conducted in the region. The earlier warnings were all ignored.


    Flaming: A jeep set on fire by protesters

    The first had come from the central empowered committee, constituted under the Environment Protection Act (1986), in accordance with a 2002 order of the Supreme Court. The committee observed: “Had a proper study been conducted before embarking on a project of this nature and magnitude involving massive investment, the objections to the project from the environmental/ecological/forest angle would have become known in the beginning itself and in all probability the project would have been abandoned.”

    The second came from WII in 2006. Its status report said, “Mining could trigger irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area. The cost-benefit value should not only take into account the material benefits of bauxite mining...(but also) the perpetuity of the resources and ecosystem services that would be provided by these forests in the future. Compromising long-term economic returns, therefore, cannot be an alternative for short-term gains.” The apex court, however, ruled in 2008 that the company was free to mine after it complies with the due process of law.

    That, as environment activists will affirm, rarely happens. In March this year, the Orissa Pollution Control Board had asked Vedanta to comply with pollution norms after their readings showed a high alkalinity level in the Vasundhara river. Curiously, within a few days, the board declared that the company was following all norms. Responding to questions from Outlook, a spokesperson for Vedanta said, “There is no habitation or cultivation atop the Lanjigarh (mining site) deposit. Out of approximately 250 sq km of Niyamgiri hill ranges, approximately 4-5 sq km of area, where there is no habitation or cultivation, will be utilised for Vedanta’s mining operations.” The company also said a resettlement colony for about 100 people was taking full care of some displaced tribals. It says the protests are backed by foreign companies that don’t want India to progress.

    Most of the tribals residing in the colony refused to speak, but Mali Manjhi, one of the few to have agreed to a rehabilitation package offered by the company, said, “I had 20 acres. Now I get Rs 1,300 per month, barely sufficient for my needs. I used to grow paddy, millet. Now I have to buy it from the market.”

    Is there then no hope for the tribals? Activists are banking on the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which backs the community’s claim over forest land. Simply put, gram sabhas of tribal villages can “initiate the process of determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both”. So far, two villages have staked claim—a first step, but more are likely to follow.

    Sceptics may say the process could allow Vedanta scope for intervention, but the tribal activists are steadfast in their resolve. “We’re not against development,” they say. “But the state must recognise the rights of tribal communities that have lived here for ages.”


    Article by - Anuradha Raman
    Link - http://outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?261786
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

  2. #2
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    Default Vedanta versus the villagers: the fight for the sacred mountain

    The ash spills out across the plain beneath the brooding bulk of Niyamgiri mountain, swamping the trees that once grew here, forming dirty grey-brown drifts around the stems of the now-dead scrub.

    Every day there is more ash, pouring out of the alumina refinery that squats among the steep-sided, jungle-clad hills of western Orissa, India. The dust hangs in the air and clings to the landscape, settling on the huts of the aboriginal Kondh tribes who call this place home, choking those who breathe it in.

    Niyamgiri is as remote as any place in the country: 600km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, accessible only by narrow, shattered roads pocked with deep holes, a world away from the economic powerhouse that is 21st-century India.

    It is a place of quiet beauty, of lush green paddy fields and huge mango trees, where self-sufficient tribes still share the jungle with elephant, tiger and leopard. Yet this most unlikely place is now the frontline in a clash of civilisations that has pitched the indigenous population up against the corporate might of the British mining company Vedanta Resources, intent on dragging Niyamgiri into the modern world.

    It is the mineral wealth lying beneath the slopes of the mountain that has drawn Vedanta to Niyamgiri. It wants to turn the hillside into a giant bauxite mine to feed its refinery at the foot of the mountain.

    The FTSE 100-listed company, which is run by the abrasive billionaire Anil Agarwal, is pressing ahead despite a desperate local rearguard action and an international outcry. Yesterday the British government turned on the company, issuing an unexpectedly damning assessment of its behaviour.

    Vedanta hopes the refinery will produce at least one million tonnes of alumina a year. But the Kondh people – the Dongria, Kutia and Jharania – need the bauxite too. It holds water remarkably well and helps feed the perennial streams on which they and the animals that live on the mountain rely. Once the bauxite is gone, they fear, the streams will run dry. And that will be the end of the Kondh.

    Faced with ferocious local opposition and an international campaign to stop the development, the company has returned time and again to the courts to push its plans through. In July, after numerous setbacks and rulings against it, it was finally given permission by India's supreme court to start mining.

    It has wasted no time. Already, the skeleton of an enormous conveyor belt snakes out of the refinery and up to the foot of the mountain. Beyond it, an ugly scar of deep red earth runs up the hillside where hundreds of trees have been felled. Convoys of lorries trundle along the narrow roads, churning them to mud.

    There are still legal challenges that the protesters can make and there is also the remote possibility that Vedanta shareholders, which include the Church of England, could bring pressure on the board to reverse its plans.

    Although the mining is yet to start in earnest, those who live in the hundreds of small villages that dot the slopes are in no doubt that the effects of Vedanta's presence are already being felt. People and animals are dying, they say: the number of cases of tuberculosis have shot up.

    Basanti Majhi sits with her hands folded in her lap, in a hut in the centre of the Kutia Kondh village of Rengopali, a couple of hundred metres from where the company has sited the red mud pond that holds the waste slurry from the refining process.

    The 12-year-old started coughing hard last year; her family took her to a doctor, who confirmed TB. She complains of constant pains in her hips and joints and of problems from the dust that settles on the village. "The dust gets in my eyes and it makes it hard to breathe," she says.

    Her uncle, Lingaraj Majhi, says 12 people have died from TB in the village in the last year, including a nine-year-old girl and two middle-aged women. He blames dust and smoke from the refinery and the presence of the red mud pond.

    "We never used to have a problem but the cases started to appear in the last two years," he said. "During the summer the dust comes in to our houses and gets everywhere, even into our food."

    Outside the hut where Basanti sits is a plaque announcing the inauguration of the electrification of the village on 25 June 2008 in a scheme sponsored by Vedanta. Similiar signs adorn the walls of buildings all over the district, part of a concerted campaign by the company to win over the local population. It is hard to move without seeing the name Vedanta. But its critics are unconvinced, suggesting that in many instances the company is simply piggy-backing on existing schemes.

    No sooner had the electricity arrived than salesmen turned up, hoping to take advantage of the small group of people who had received small packets of compensation for the loss of their land (many did not) to the red mud pond. Some of the villagers were persuaded to blow their cash on television sets and satellite dishes. Some also bought motorbikes. Only later did they stop to consider how they would pay for the electricity and the fuel to keep them going. With their land gone, few can afford it, and the dishes and bikes stand idle.

    "The company promised us a developed way of life with electricity and such things, but now we have to pay for the electricity and we don't have any money," says Kuni Majhi, 40.

    She used to grow crops on seven hectares of common land; when the pond was built, she lost the land. There was no compensation. Worse, many of the trees in the area were chopped down, so now she has to trek further to reach the jungle to find firewood and to pick whatever produce she can find.

    "The way we were living, we were self-sufficient, and we had lived like that for generations," she says. "We could have lived like that for many more generations too. Because of these people, we cannot. But we will still fight to continue the old ways."

    To the animist Kondh tribes, the mountain is more than the place where they live: it is their god. It has sustained them for generations, providing everything they need to survive. All over its slopes there are small shrines where they place offerings to the mountain from whatever they have taken from the jungle. When the mining starts, they fear that the mountain will be taken away from them.

    High up in the foothills, 13 families live in two rows of huts in the Dongria Kondh village of Devapada. The huts line a central area in which an imposing wooden ceremonial arch marks the place where animal sacrifices are carried out.

    The village is only accessible on foot, the path meandering through meadows in which the tribe is growing paddy. Every now and then there is a wooden watchtower, in which they will sit at night to guard against the wild animals which try to get at the crop, beating drums or waving lighted torches to scare them off.

    Now they also have to keep watch for the contractors who are trying to build roads up the mountainsides.

    "We don't want a road. The company will come and kill us," says Sitaram Kulesika, 23. He is sitting on a charpoy under the shade of a tree, toying with a new Nokia mobile phone, a rare concession to the outside world. Kulesika is involved in the campaign to stop the mining: the phone, he says, is a necessary evil to keep in touch with his fellow activists. "We stopped them coming up here. We went to explain to them that if they came we would have to leave. We don't want to get into clashes, so we are explaining peacefully."

    Others have been less peaceful: the Kondh men routinely carry axes which they use for hunting and to work in the forest, and the contractors are wary of them. A number of the company's vehicles have been attacked in recent months.

    Kulesika insists they just want to be left to get on with their lives. "We get everything we need from the mountain except salt and kerosene and we can barter for those," he says. But even now, that is becoming harder. "The smoke brings ash here and it is settling in the village. We can see the impact on the mango and the pineapple and the orange and banana. The flowers are falling early and the fruit is falling and we are losing our crops and the quality of the food is declining."

    Down on the plain, the heavens have opened, huge drops of rain hammering into the muddy ruts which mark the road around the turn-off to the refinery. There are security guards everywhere, patrolling in vehicles and on motorbikes. A barbed wire fence and a wide ditch protect the growing hill of ash: any attempt to approach brings the guards out in force.

    A short distance away, a crowd has gathered in the centre of the road. It is pouring with rain and they huddle under umbrellas to listen to the leaders of the anti-Vedanta campaign telling them that they can still stop the mine from going ahead. There are a few communist party banners and a lot of red bandanas tied around heads. A few men carry spears and bows and arrows; many more have brought their axes, which they wave in the air from time to time.

    The police watch warily from behind a barricade, clutching bamboo shields and their long wooden lathis. They fear trouble, though the rain has dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd. The speakers finish and the crowd drifts away. An hour or so later, back in his village of Kundobodi, close to the refinery, Kumati Majhi, one of the protest leaders, is still railing against Vedanta. The company claims it is committed to sustainable development of the area, he says, but their actions tell another story.

    "Once they start mining the mountain will be bulldozed and the rivers will dry up and our livelihood will be lost," he says. "We will become fish out of water. We don't know how to adapt and survive and our way of living is not available in the cities. We will be extinct."

    Link to article by Gethin Chamberlain:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2...-the-villagers

  3. #3
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    Default Nod for Niyamgiri mines likely soon

    Sharing an article from Business Standard which quotes Vedanta officials saying that they are going to get the clearance by end of November. It would be highly unfortunate as this project will cause all round destruction to the environment. Infact, even before the clearance Vedanta has done lot of work in changing the nature of the place.

    Sabyasachi


    Nod for Niyamgiri mines likely soon

    Dilip Kumar Jha / Mumbai November 11, 2009, 0:56 IST

    The project will supply bauxite to Vedanta’s alumina refinery in Kalahandi.

    State-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) is likely to get final approval from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) this month for the much-discussed Niyamgiri hill mining project near Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district for supplying bauxite to the alumina refinery, close by, of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd.

    This is sought to be done through a joint venture company, South West Orissa Bauxite Mining Pvt Ltd, a 74:26 holding between Sterlite Industries (SIIL) and OMC. The company has completed all formalities required. The Supreme Court had already cleared the project 18 months earlier, following affidavits filed by SIIL, OMC and the Orissa government on the rehabilitation package.

    OMC has been following the matter with the MOEF and they are expecting approval by the end of November, said Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Vedanta Aluminium (VAL).

    After that, four to five months will be required for preliminary preparations for actual commencement of bauxite mining and another two to three months for commercial production. In all, the bauxite mining may commence in eight to nine months from now, Kumar said.

    The JV was formed after signing of a modified JV agreement between SIIL and OMC in February this year, paving the way for the start of bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills.

    The purpose of the JV was to sort out the issue of raising Bauxite for VAL Alumina Refinery at lanjigarh where VAL has already spent about Rs 120 crore till date under corporate social responsibility (CSR).
    On rehabilitation, Kumar said, “Bauxite is a hard rock which exists above 900 metres from the surface. Therefore, the Niyamgiri hills are neither crops nor inhabitants-friendly. Resistance is received from some section of the people with vested interest, as there is no habitation on the mines top and no displacement is involved.” It is a description which has been bitterly disputed by area residents and ecology activists, not only in India but also abroad.

    Bauxite mining in the Lanjigarh project is important for VAL to feed its one million-tonne (MT) alumina refinery and a 0.5 MT aluminium smelter. The mines in Lanjigarh possess a minimum 73 MT of reserves, likely to go up further. The optimal location of VAL affords easy reach to recoverable bauxite deposits of over 150 MT within a 60 km radius of Lanjigarh, the location of its alumina refinery.

    The bauxite variety here boasts of low reactive silica content, adaptability to low temperature and low pressure digestion, which entails low cost and high quality alumina production. VAL is further aided by availability of ample reserves of coal (62 billion tonnes) in Orissa, leading to low cost of power generation.

    Orissa, a mineral-rich state, possesses about 1.7 billion tonnes of India’s total bauxite reserves of 3.3 billion tonnes. Such an integrated aluminium complex, which would be one of the largest in Asia, would give a significant boost to the state economy, besides providing a number of jobs, says the company.

    VAL has invested in a 0.5 MT aluminum smelter and 1,215 Mw captive power plant, supported by highly modern infrastructure at Jharsuguda, Orissa.

    Jharsuguda is also the site of a 2,400 MW independent power plant being set up by group company Sterlite Energy Ltd to meet the growing demand for power from both urban and rural consumers. It intends to expand the fully integrated alumina refining capacity to around 2 MT. Further expansion would increase the project capacity to 5 MT by 2012, said Kumar, and then to 6 MT.

    The source article can be found here:
    http://www.business-standard.com/ind...y-soon/375996/

  4. #4
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    Default Church of England sells Vedanta Resources shares

    This is a shot in the arm for all the activists campaigning against Vedanta. The two Church of England bodies have sold off their investments in Vedanta Resources due to concerns about Vedanta's alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa. Here is what they say"...after six months of engagement, we are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect of companies in whom the church investing bodies hold shares".
    Sabyasachi

    The full article from IBN Live is reproduced below:

    Church of England sells Vedanta Resources shares
    London: Two Church of England funding bodies said on Friday that they have sold their shares in Vedanta Resources PLC, worth a total of $6.7 million, because of objections to some of the miner's operations in India.

    The Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board said they acted on the advice of the church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which expressed concerns about Vedanta's alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa, and a planned bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri hills.

    John Reynolds, chairman of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said church representatives held several meetings with Vedanta.

    "However, after six months of engagement, we are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect of companies in whom the church investing bodies hold shares," Reynolds said.

    Vedanta shares were down 4.5 per cent at 2,306 pence in midday trading on the London Stock Exchange.

    The church said Vedanta could reassure investors by making available environmental and social impact assessments on the Niyamgiri bauxite mine project, establishing externally monitored links with affected communities and by drawing up group standards on human rights, community consultation and environmental protection.

    The church said the share stake, which was sold this week, was worth about £4.25 million ($6.7 million). The Church Commissioners had the larger share, worth £3.75 million.

    The link to the source article:
    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/church-of...3.html?from=tn

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    Default

    Dear All,

    I read this sad news in rediff and sharing it here. The Hon'ble Prime Minister is supposed to have intervened asking the Vedanta project in Niyamgiri hills to be cleared.


    Vedanta's controversial mine gets PM's backing
    June 30, 2010 16:20 IST

    In a highly unusual move, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened directly in the approval process for one of the world's most controversial mines.

    The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to the Union environment and forests ministry urging it to clear Vedanta's proposed Niyamgiri mine in Orissa. The mine cannot go ahead without official clearance from the environment ministry.

    Observers say that the mine is likely to have a devastating effect on the Dongria Kondh tribe who live in the area. A Dongria Kondh man told Survival International, "Mining only makes profit for the rich. We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money."

    The tribe has become known as the 'real Avatar tribe' because of the parallels between their plight and that of the Na'vi in James Cameron's blockbuster.

    A team of experts commissioned by the environment ministry to investigate Vedanta's plan earlier this year warned that the Niyamgiri mine could 'lead to the destruction of the Dongria Kondh [as a people].'

    FTSE 100 company Vedanta is majority-owned by billionaire Anil Agarwal.

    The ministry has appointed another expert team to conduct further investigations. Reports indicate that the environment ministry will then announce its decision, around the time of Vedanta's AGM in London on July 28.

    Last year the British government condemned Vedanta, declaring that it 'did not respect the rights of the Dongria Kondh' and that a 'change in the company's behaviour [is] essential.' The Church of England, the Norwegian government and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust are among the high-profile investors that have sold their Vedanta shares over serious human rights concerns.

    Survival director Stephen Corry, said, 'The prime minister ought to be protecting the rights of India's most vulnerable citizens, not helping to railroad through a project that government experts have warned could destroy them.'

    The source article can be found here:
    Vedanta's controversial mine gets PM's backing
    June 30, 2010 16:20 IST

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    If this project is cleared, then it will be an environmental disaster. More over, this will lead to the the displacement of Dongria Kondhs. This is not a normal displacement as the Niyamgiri mountain is revered as their God. They call it Niyama Raja. Uprooting a self sufficient people will not only result in making them dependent on the outside world for survival, it will also bring them untold hardships as they are not used to this alien world.

    Moreover it will result in death of culture, religious values and beliefs. They will soon be forgotten after some compensation is given. And worse is the loss of dignity that comes when they become just an unfortunate face (read beggars, coolies etc) in the crowd.

    What use is the development which comes at the cost of environmental degradation. India's civilisation has been enriched by the various cultures, values and beliefs of its people staying in various parts of this country. What use is the development which doesn't respect such diversity and comes as a messenger of death (read Yamdoot) for cultures?

    I urge you to kindly write to the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India asking him to reconsider his decision of supporting a move which is going to force such tremendous miseries on our people and devastate the environment.

    Sabyasachi

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    Default New panel to study Vedanta mine impact on tribals

    Sharing a news that was published in The Hindu. It reports formation of a new panel to study the impact of the proposed mining activity by Vedanta on tribals.
    Sabyasachi

    New panel to study Vedanta mine impact on tribals

    Special Correspondent
    Orissa's proposal is to divert forest land for bauxite mines

    NEW DELHI: Dongria Kondhs of Lanjigarh in Orissa may have received some respite, with the government setting up yet another committee to reconsider how a proposed Vedanta mine in the area could affect the tribe.

    On Wednesday, the Environment and Forests Ministry constituted the four-member committee to make recommendations on a proposal to divert over 660 hectares of forest land for the Lanjigarh Bauxite mines, submitted by the Orissa Mining Corporation for a project to be implemented jointly with Vedanta Aluminium.

    The committee will examine, apart from the diversion of the land which comes under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, issues of settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, says a Ministry release.

    Of particular importance will be the “specific impact on the livelihood, culture and material welfare of the Dongria Kondhs, a notified Primitive Tribal Group.”

    Holy mountain

    A number of international NGOs have taken up the cause of the tribe, which claims that the mine would desecrate its holy mountain and cause disruptions to its way of life on the Niyamgiri Hills.

    The committee will also consider the project's impact on wildlife and biodiversity in surrounding areas.

    It will be headed by National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena.

    The other members are Tata Institute of Social Sciences director S. Parasuraman, retired IFS officer Promode Kant and the Institute of Economic Growth's associate professor Amita Baviskar.

    They will submit their findings within one month after conducting field visits and analysis, and reviewing previous reports.

    Follow-up action

    In fact, this panel was set up as a follow-up to concerns raised by a three-member committee which submitted its report after site inspections in January and February 2010.

    The original article published in The Hindu can be found here:
    http://www.hindu.com/2010/07/01/stor...0163821500.htm

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    One by one, investors are standing up to withdraw their investments in Vedanta due to ethical reasons. I am sure there will be others who will follow suit. Sharing a news item about asset manager PGGM withdrawing investments in Vedanta.

    Sabyasachi

    DUTCH MANAGER PGGM DROPS INDIA’S VEDANTA OVER ETHICAL CONCERNS


    NETHERLANDS – Asset manager PGGM has withdrawn its investments in Indian mining company Vedanta Resources for “persistently ignoring” the environment and human rights.

    Despite a two-year dialogue concerning Vedanta’s mining activities in the state of Orissa, the company made no concrete improvements, PGGM said.

    The asset manager said Vedanta’s lack of improvement and refusal to co-operate on environmental and human rights issues had increasingly put the company’s reputation at risk, which, PGGM felt, had translated into a financial risk.

    PGGM, which manages the €91bn healthcare scheme PFZW, said it had exchanged letters and held numerous talks with the company over the last two years.

    It also aimed to step up pressure on Vedanta by involving a number of international institutional investors in talks.

    But PGGM said Vedanta declined to participate in a roundtable meeting with experts – initiated by the group of investors – to discuss possible solutions for problems in Orissa.

    Consequently, PGGM has disinvested its €13m stake in the company, including Vedanta’s subsidiaries Sterlite Industries, Hindustan Zinc and Sesa Goa.

    Source article can be found here:
    http://www.ipe.com/news/dutch-manager-pggm-drops-indias-vedanta-over-ethical- concerns_36035.php

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    Default Environment Ministry stalls Vedanta's Niyamgiri project in Orissa

    Some news about Enviornment Ministry stalls the Mining project

    24 Aug, 2010, 11.57AM IST,ET Bureau & Agencies
    Environment Ministry stalls Vedanta's Niyamgiri project in Orissa

    NEW DELHI: The environment ministry on Tuesday rejected a plan by India-focused mining group Vedanta Resources Plc to mine bauxite in Orissa, dealing a blow to the company already struggling with regulatory issues in India.

    The decision pertains to one mining site in Orissa where it runs an alumina refinery on bauxite imported from elsewhere in India.

    The decision was announced in a government statement. The company is facing regulatory hurdles in its bid for control of Cairn India, a potential deal valued at $9.6 billion that can give billionaire Anil Agarwal-led group a slice of India's oil reserves and exposure of surging demand.

    "There have been serious violations of environment protection acts," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters, while rejecting Vedanta's mining plans that could destroy heavily forested hills sacred to local tribal populations. "There is no emotion, no politics, no prejudice ... I have taken the decision in a purely legal approach. That these laws are being violated."

    The Forest Advisory Committee had recommended that the "in-principle clearance" to the mining proposal, put forward by Orissa Mining Corporation, be withdrawn. Vedanta, through its subsidiary Sterlite India, has a joint venture agreement with Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite.

    The committee’s recommendation is based on the fact that claims under the Forest Rights Act have not been settled. Traditional and customary rights as well as age-old access of the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh tribes to the area have been recognised in several forest settlement reports and government working plans. Also, several gram sabhas of the affected villages have passed resolutions claiming community and habitat rights.

    It is argued that it would be incorrect for the Orissa government to claim that these primitive tribes have no claims or rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The affected groups, Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh, are both Scheduled Tribes. The Constitution requires that the government respect and uphold the land rights of the Scheduled Tribes.

    Additionally, both the Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh have been notified as primitive tribal groups and are, therefore, eligible for special protection. The Niyamgiri Hills are the sole habitat of the two tribes and at least 20% of the Dongaria Kondh population lives in villages in and around the forest blocks of the proposed mining project area.

    The panel has also recommended action against Vedanta Alumina Refinery at Lanjigarh. It has recommended that steps be taken against the refinery for illegally encroaching and enclosing 26 hectares of forest land. This despite the fact that the environmental clearance was given on the condition that no forest land would be used. Two other violations have been cited.

    One, the refinery’s capacity has increased from 1 million tonnes per year to 6 million tonnes without requisite clearances. Secondly, Vedanta refinery is currently sourcing bauxite from 14 mines, of which 11 do not have any environmental clearance and are hence illegal. The Forest Advisory Committee has also recommended that the state be heard before the minister announces his decision.

    This article can be also read at - http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/...ow/6425059.cms
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    That is some good news. There were huge protests from the Dongria Kondhs residing in that area regarding the project. Happy for this initiative. Thanks for sharing this piece of news.
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.bibhavbehera.com

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    Great news. This is a developing news though. Mining behemoths like Vedanta look at long term objectives. I hope change in central government (or Minister) would not lead to abandonment of the decision.

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    The MoEF order signed by the Shri Jairam Ramesh on 24th August can be found in this link:
    http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-...a-24082010.pdf

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    Default After Niyamgiri, Vendanta eyeing Gandamardan: Cong

    One more forest might be lost to mining..

    After Niyamgiri, Vendanta eyeing Gandamardan: Cong
    Riyan Ramanath V, TNN, Aug 28, 2010, 09.40pm IST

    BALANGIR: After its unsuccessful attempt to hand over the Niyamgiri Hills to Vedanta, the state government is planning to give away the Gandhamardan forest range to private industrial house, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra alleged at a media conference here.

    He warned that any attempt by the government to give away Gandamardan to Vedanta for bauxite extraction would meet with stiff resistance like it happened at Niyamgiri. "Objections applicable to Niyamgiri also hold true for Gandamardan," Mishra said. He said the Gandamardan range apart from linked with the religious feelings of people is rich in medicinal herbs and wildlife and these would be destroyed bby mining, he said.

    He said Vedanta has already applied for Gandhamardan and state government is trying to lease it out to the company. Two years ago, former chief secretary Ajit Tripathy made an aerial survey of the range with high level officials of the mining and geology departments. They surveyed the area near Tankapani and Chormara villages of Khaprakhol block near the Gandhamardhan hill where bauxite is available. Some years ago, Balco who was trying to dig at Nrusinghanath and met with opposition from the people.


    Similarly, the Canadian Continental Resource Ltd was trying to mine bauxite from Gandamardan.

    He said that the OPCC has decided that no mining lease will be given to any private party, individual or company in Orissa and use of mines should be through Orissa Mining Corporation ( OMC) based on market price.

    "As far as Vedanta is concerned, the Centre will nullify all documents of Vedanta's expansion project," Mishra said, demanding action against the company. He also demanded resignation of the chief minister and criminal proceedings against him for endorsing illegal mining by forging documents in connivance with Vedanta. "All the deals of Orissa government with Vedanta need to be investigated by the CBI or Lokpal," Mishra said.


    Article at - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/c...ow/6453033.cms
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    Default SC stops Vedanta's Niyamagiri plans, asks to get permission from Gram sabha

    The Hon'ble Supreme Court's forest bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam, while hearing a petition filed by OMC (Orissa Mining Corporation) against the MoEF order withdrawing the Phase 2 clearance to Vedanta, has ordered that permission needs to be taken from the Gram Sabha. The Gram sabha is to look into the religious and cultural significance of Niyamgiri for the Dongria Kondha's and pass an order within 3 months. The MoEF then needs to look into it within the next 2 months.

    The apex court had noted that the Dongria Kondha's worship the Niyamagiri hill.

    The Odisha Government had first given the go ahead to Vedanta. A Wildlife Institute of India report had said “Mining could trigger irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area. The cost-benefit value should not only take into account the material benefits of bauxite mining...(but also) the perpetuity of the resources and ecosystem services that would be provided by these forests in the future. Compromising long-term economic returns, therefore, cannot be an alternative for short-term gains.”

    If this project is cleared, then it will be an environmental disaster. The Niyamagiri mountain, which is filled with bauxite is the source of rivers. Apart from the ecological destruction of this pristine area, if the Niyamagiri mining proposal is cleared than Dongria Kondha's, who are categoried as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG), will be displaced. This is not a normal displacement as the Niyamgiri mountain is revered as their God. They call it Niyama Raja. Apart from their cultural beliefs, uprooting a self sufficient people will not only result in making them dependent on the outside world for survival, it will also bring them untold hardships as they are not used to this alien world. They only used to depend on the outside world for salt.

    Moreover it will result in death of culture, religious values and beliefs and a once independent and self-sufficient lifestyle. They will soon be forgotten after some compensation is given. And worse is the loss of dignity that comes when they become just an unfortunate face (read beggars, coolies etc) in the crowd.

    What is the use of such short term development which only benefits a particular corporate and comes at the huge cost of environmental degradation. India's civilisation has been enriched by the various cultures, values and beliefs of its people staying in various parts of this country. What use is the development which doesn't respect such diversity and comes as a messenger of death for cultures?

    We don't want short-term myopic development while sacrificing people, environment and wildlife at its altar. Niyamagiri has to stop.

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