Monday, August 30, 2010

7 questions on Vedanta, Niyamgiri and economic development

Hindustan Times, Aug 30, 2010
Gautam Chikermane,

Climbing the Niyamgiri Hills is a unique experience, most of which does not belong to the realm of logic, rationality — and this column. I thought I would get some insights into the raging controversy and the resultant debates currently on around the area. But after speaking to tribals, the locals at Lanjigarh at the foothills of Niyamgiri, the activists, the authorities and the company, all I have to offer is more questions.
The public part of the storm is clear. On one side stands the $7.9 billion (R37,000 crore) Anil Agarwal-managed mining giant Vedanta that wants to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills to convert into aluminium at its plant in the foothills. Standing by Vedanta is the Naveen Patnaik-led government of Orissa that wants the project to come up fast

On the other side are the 1,453 peope of the Dongria Kondh tribe, who live on Niyamgiri, a mountain they consider sacred. Their belief system hinges on an ecosystem that says everything on the mountain is sacred. From earth goddess Darani Penu (Supreme Goddess) and her husband Kotebali Penu to the lower gods — the arrogant Jatrakudi Penu, who brings drought; Bima Penu, who looks after crops and Takrani Penu, who protects them from disease — to its inhabitants, all is one. The now-popular Niyam Raja Penu, the god who protects the tribals from unnatural deaths, is one of many gods that the animistic-polytheist Dongria Kondh tribe worships.
While on the Hills, I found that the idea of a god for them is but an extension of life itself. It reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s brilliant book Foundation’s Edge (1982), where on planet Gaia, plants, animals and men are all connected to each other through a consciousness
“When the factory construction (of Vedanta refinery) began, we realised that this will be a rakshsa that will devour our hill,” the Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad President Kumti Majhi said. “This hill is not a thing to be sold, it is for living.” The analogy with James Cameron’s Avatar is true.
On the debating table, therefore, is not a transaction of dislocation — how much to pay per acre, who to pay, how to create a corporate social responsibility model around it and so on — as is the case in say the outskirts of New Delhi where farmers are currently agitating to get a better price for their land. On the table is something that’s much deeper, more complex, multi-layered, something that will tax all our reason, our compassion and our action for years to come. Seven questions are bothering me:

One, should the world’s second-fastest growing economy consciously leave its statistically-insignificant but humanely-worrisome 1,453-strong group of people behind? Should we allow them to thrive on what the hills offer, on commercial produce that the hills can sustain?

“We don’t want any car or bike,” Kadra Bamunu, an axe-carrying farmer in the hill’s middle ranges told me through a translator. “We need only that which our stomachs want now. What we need we grow.”

Two, even if that is indeed the case, is it morally right to leave this chunk of Indians without healthcare, education, electricity, communication? Just 1 km into the hills and my mobile connectivity disappeared. I passed a signboard near a village that said it “has been electrified under Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana”, but there was no electricity there. I felt I was lost, the tribals couldn’t care less. On the way down, I met a midwife who said three tribals died of diarrhoea recently. Vedanta Chief Operating Officer Mukesh Kumar said it is impossible to get them to take medicines — they just keep it on top of their huts and offer it to the gods who they believe will protect them. “Can we allow such andhvishwas (blind faith) in our citizens?” he asked.

Three, does development have any meaning? So far, it meant an increase in per capita income that would come from jobs in the organised sector, largely in industry and mining. A large number of companies have taken up projects to help the local population where they set up industries become “employable”, through training and skills. Development has meant the ability to earn and consume goods and services. It has been an uneven development so far, but the trickle down is not far. What do you do when a group of people tells you that they don’t need any of this, can you force it down their throats?

Four, does it mean that if development as defined is rejected, Niyamgiri will remain a sort of tribal island — beautiful, no doubt, but an island still? The argument against it is: they don’t know what the benefits of development are, let them taste decent living, earn a decent income, then let them decide, right now, there is a consumption-asymmetry. Can we allow that, should we allow that?
Five, who will decide the direction of this development? If you think the answer is “free markets”, perish the thought. The Niyamgiri incident is a blatant joke on the free-market system. How can an illiterate, inarticulate, ill-informed group of people take decisions about their land, their lives against some of the world’s most sophisticated minds behind the state government of Orissa and Vedanta? The information-asymmetry is just too wide to even begin a discussion. Today, the two can’t even sit on the same table. On the other side, will natural resources such as bauxite or iron ore be left untapped because it is the natural habitat of tribals
Six, where is our political economy headed? “I am your soldier in Delhi,” Rahul Gandhi told a small, 5,000-strong rally at Lanjigarh a day after the Vedanta verdict. “Development does not mean destroying a mountain or oppressing the poor. Look at how we are bringing development to Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Our government in Delhi will fight for you.” I agree with his politics — if the state government, particularly its khaki uniform, has lost its credibility and the Centre has moved in to fill the void, a political advantage should be taken. Clearly, Niyamgiri is not the last such act on the political theatre.

Seven — and this is the most difficult question — how do you propose to bring economic well-being to Niyamgiri? The Dongria don’t want it. But they can’t be left behind as India progresses. The two have to meet at some point and that point doesn’t have to be one of conflict. Instead of looking at the two players as hostiles, it is the role of the government, policymakers and thinkers to throw up creative ideas that help bridge this gap. Remember, Niyamgiri is not about land acquisition that can be fixed as Parliament debates the bill shortly. It is about choices — national, corporate and individual. To view it as an either-or is a grave error all of us could be getting tapped into.
Could the first step to this long-drawn solution be to offer them healthcare, education and jobs, and then allow them to make their own choices, rather than making factory workers out of a set who like to swing the axe over the shoulder, reach out to eat a pineapple and sit all day living the miracle of life?

Concern for Kondhs, but not Khasis?

Times of India, Aug 30, 2010

What is common between Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district of Orissa and a place near Umiam lake in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya?

Both are among the finest addresses for nature lovers. Nestling among green and once undisturbed surroundings, the inhabitants - Dongria Kondhs and Khasis - do not know much about the rapid industrial strides the country has taken.
If East Khasi Hills district houses the world's once wettest place, Cherrapunjee, the beautiful Umiam lake and scintillating waterfalls like Nohkalikai, Kynrem and Nohsngithiang, then Kalahandi district has abundant green cover sheltering varied wildlife.

Peace and serenity of both places have been shattered. If it was limestone mining by French multinational Lafarge's subsidiary in Shella village of Khasi Hills for supply of raw material to a cement plant in Bangladesh, then in Niyamgiri it was a Vedanta group firm seeking to extract bauxite for its aluminium refinery.
Both matters had reached Supreme Court on the environmental clearance aspect. In the Vedanta-related mining case, the SC kept in mind sustainable development theory and chalked out a plan for rehabilitation of tribals and social welfare measures. But the clearance was subject to final nod from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), which now has withdrawn its in-principle consent for mining saying most of the mining leases were fraught with illegality.
The Lafarge case is a little different. Mining was carried out without even a valid environmental clearance. On a petition from Shella Village Committee, the SC stayed mining operations on February 5. This set the entire government machinery into action, for it would mean stoppage of raw material to Bangladesh's cement plant.
Harried officials carried out fast-track environment impact assessment and gave the green signal. It was placed before the apex court. Services of the attorney general were requisitioned and he made an impassioned plea staking everything - from straining of bilateral ties at a critical time to breach of sovereign guarantee by India to supply raw material to the cement plant and loss of face in the international community.
The eagerness of MoEF to bend a few procedural impediments was quite evident from the plea and fast-tracking of a normally tedious process. Now, it has prepared an elaborate plan to eke out Rs 140 crore from Lafarge to plead before the SC to allow resumption of mining activity.

Given the dwindling natural habitat of wildlife and wiping out of many species, MoEF is saddled with the unenviable task of being brutally strict with implementation of Forest Conservation Act and Environment Protection Act.

And whatever be the procedure MoEF adopts for scrutiny of projects, it must be in compliance with the mandate of the two laws and should be applied uniformly across the spectrum.

If one takes the cases of bauxite and limestone mining in Niyamgiri Hills and the Khasi Hills, then there appears to be something amiss somewhere and leaves one wondering whether politics has some role even in matters relating to environment.
What the SC said in its 2007 judgment on Vedanta case is important. The three-judge bench, through Justice S H Kapadia, explained that sustainable development was a constitutional requirement and defined it as ''development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs''.
It also said, ''Indian economy for last couple of years has been growing at the rate of 8-9% of GDP. It is a remarkable achievement. However, accelerated growth rate of GDP does not provide inclusive growth. Keeping in mind the two extremes, this court thought of balancing development vis-a-vis protection of wildlife ecology and environment in view of the principle of sustainable development.''
Only environment minister Jairam Ramesh will know whether this ruling was kept in mind while deciding the fate of Niyamgiri hills and Khasi Hills.

Politics pollutes the environment

Indian Express, Aug 29, 2010
Tavleen Singh
For fear of an onslaught by lunatic fringe environmentalists, I begin with a prologue. I am a fanatical environmentalist. I remember with deep nostalgia India’s rivers when they were clean and Delhi’s air so clear that at night you could count the stars. I remember when tigers wandered about thefarms my cousins had in the ‘terai’ of Uttar Pradesh. When INTACH began its campaign to clean the Ganga in 1985, I, who write for a living, wrote an action plan of more than 30,000 words for free. And, I wept when Rajiv Gandhi made the project governmental and killed it. I long to see real environmental movements that would clean our rivers, save our forests and give our children clean air to breathe. This is why I think of fake environmentalists as criminals and fake environmental concerns as a crime against India.

In the Niyamgiri hills, this is what could be happening and for Rahul Gandhi to go there last week and speak of the clash between ‘rich India’ and ‘poor India’ is most disturbing.
If Vedanta succeeded in making aluminum close to a bauxite source, as it had planned in Orissa, world prices of aluminum could have fallen by half and India may have become an important aluminum producer. So, was it the powerful international aluminum lobby that persuaded idle socialites from London and New York to take up the fight against Vedanta? It is a question worth investigating. Assomeone who has actually been to Kalahandi, I would like to state clearly that the Adivasis live in such horrible poverty and deprivation that such exalted ideas as cultural heritage are irrelevant. In 1987, when I visited remote Kalahandi villages, there was a drought and the single crop had failed. I saw children dying slowly of hunger on the mud floors of bare huts. They had eaten nothing but birdseed for six months. If Vedanta had succeeded in bringing schools, hospitals and employment to Kalahandi, it would have transformed the bleak, hopeless lives of those who live here. It is a shame that this has been prevented by an Environment Minister whose concerns may be genuine but who appears to be in the clutches of some very dubious NGOs. He keeps forgetting that in 2010, development is not necessarily the enemy of the environment. This is how it used to be in bad, old socialist times when it was mostly government factories that poisoned our air and polluted our rivers. Private industry found it harder to break the rules because of the inspector raj. Today a company like Vedanta is forced to do everything in the full glare of international publicity. If it does not replace the trees it cuts, if it does not ensure that local people are paid well for the land they sell, if the promised schools and hospitals do not get built,Vedanata will be vilified in the forums of the world.

If Jairam Ramesh is genuinely concerned about preserving the environment, he needs to begin by ensuring that India does not make the same mistakes that other countries did when they were developing. Since he appears to be fervently concerned, why has this not already happened? Why do we not have clear guidelines about what can and cannot be done? What should planners keep in mind when they plan an airport, a railway station, a port or a road? What should planners keep in mind when they build a city? What should companies like Vedanta keep in mind when they decide to build a factory in an area full of forests and primitive tribes? Once there are clear guidelines it will become easier to put a systemof environmental clearances in place and make it a rule that if anyone stops a major project once it is cleared they will be locked up and the key thrown away.
As an ardent environmentalist, I have paid close attention to NGOs who operate in the name of the environment and have to sadly report that 99 per cent of the ones I have run into are fakes whose main ‘environmental’ concern is seeing their mugs on prime time. It is frightening that people like this have so much power not just over the Governmentof India but over the man who would be Prime Minister. When Rahul Gandhi said last week to the Adivasis of Niyamgiri that he was their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi, what exactly did he mean? Did he mean that he thinks they have a standard of living that he will help them preserve? Did he mean that he wants them to remain backward and primitive? He needs to explain because as someone more likely to be Prime Minister of this country than anyone else we need to know what his dream is for India.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter@tavleens

Delhi Odia students protest Centre's decision on Vedanta

The Pioneer, Aug 30, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar
The Delhi Odia Students' Association (DOSA) has strongly protested the recent decision of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to disapprove Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Lanjigarh and approve Indira Sagar (Polavaram) multi-purpose dam project on Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh.
Registering their strong protest against the apathy of Union ministry towards development of Odisha, students from Odisha studying in various educational institutions of Delhi will sit on a daylong dharna on Monday from 9.30 am to 5.30 am at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, informed president of Delhi Odia Students' Association, Tejeswar Parida in a Press release.

The association lamented that despite Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's assurance to ensure there is no violation of the environmental law and forest rights act, the ministry did not approve the project in Odisha.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whose agitation?

Indian Express, Aug 28, 2010

Rahul Gandhi kept a two-year-old date with the inhabitants of Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills on Thursday. In what became a highly charged visit to Lanjigarh, site of Vedanta’s controversial refinery, he set out the timeline at a Congress-organised rally for tribal rights: “This is your victory. You saved your own land. Two years ago you had come to me saying the Niyamgiri hill is your god. I told you I would be your sipahi (soldier) in Delhi. I am happy that I have helped you in whatever way I could.” He did not get into details of Vedanta’s now cancelled bauxite mining project. The message was delivered in a disarming manner now associated with Rahul Gandhi — sentences scrubbed down to remove the stock, and therefore false-sounding, words from the rallyist’s phrasebook; a spontaneous connect with those gathered without fawning intermediaries. But the Niyamgiri visit does mark a change in his way of political mobilisation.
Rahul Gandhi is perhaps the most powerful general secretary in the Congress’s history. He is powerful in part for being seen to be his party’s future. As he has criss-crossed the country, connecting with the “aam aadmi”, it has been seen to be an effort at including various constituencies in a forward-looking way. So he has flummoxed his political opponents by casually taking a local train in Mumbai, having a meal in a Dalit household, chatting with university students — how do they counter the charisma of a man unhurriedly telling folks there’s a future to be built? Now, at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district he has taken responsibility for winging a government action a certain way — if not for the actual decision by the Union environment ministry against the bauxite project, at least for advocating a certain point of view. The decision came two days before Rahul Gandhi visited Orissa, when preparations for the visit had already been made.

The government is the right authority to take a call on the legitimacy of the bauxite project. But the message that the Congress’s mobilisation in opposition-ruled states is backed by the Centre’s actions has unsettling implications. Also, at Lanjigarh, the Congress appears to be unbundling the “aam aadmi” on a case-by-case basis. This carries the danger of it then having to balance different constituencies with competing agendas.
In U-turn, cops say ‘Maoist sympathiser’ on Rahul Niyamgiri stage ordinary tribal
Indian Express, Aug 28, 2010
A day after Orissa cops said a Dongaria Kondh tribal and anti-Vedanta activist who shared dais with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi at the Lanjigarh rally was a Maoist sympathiser, Raygada SP Anup Krishna said he was just an “ordinary tribal” and not a “Maoist” and “the matter is all politics”.

Lado Sikaka, 41, on Thursday had told the assembled crowd how the police picked him up in Niyamgiri jungle in Kalahandi district police limits while he was on his way to Lanjigarh and then to Delhi to attend a seminar.

“Our men had picked him up on the assumption that he had links with Maoists. But later we found that he was a member of Green Kalahandi (a forum of locals to save Niyamgiri). So we released him,” said Krishna. “This is what we do normally in these areas. There is quite a heavy movement of Maoists in Lanjigarh area.”
But president of Green Kalahandi and advocate Siddharth Nayak, who was an eyewitness to Sikaka being forcibly taken by plainclothes armed men, said there were gaping holes in police version of the event. “In the afternoon on August 9, 15 members of Green Kalahandi including me and 10 Dongaria Kondhs were on our way to Lanjigarh when people wearing black masks suddenly stopped our vehicles in Niyamgiri jungle. They were speaking in Telugu and Hindi. They asked us why we were opposing Vedanta project and started beating the driver. They forcibly took our mobiles and vehicle keys. Then they bundled Lado and another tribal, Sana, into one of their Boleros and sped up. We remained mum as we thought they might be Maoists,” said Nayak.

Though Sana returned in an hour, Sikaka did not come back. The worried tribals started walking to the main road and called for help. “Hours later we reached Bhawanipatna (headquarter of Kalahandi) and lodged a complaint at the police station about Maoists possibly abducting him. I called local MP Bhakta Charan Das to inform about Lado’s abduction,” said Nayak, who went alone to Delhi to attend the seminar. Three days later, Lado was released near the block office of Kalyasinghpur under mysterious circumstances.

“If police indeed picked him up from the forest, why were they in plain clothes? It seems police are hand in gloves with company people to browbeat tribals,” alleged Nayak.
However, the Raygada SP said normally the cops moved in plain clothes in daytime. “Our men had actually picked him up on suspicion,” he added.
Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das, who organised Thursday’s rally, said if Lado was a Maoist as police initially alleged, then they should also arrest him as he was the founder of Green Kalahandi. “The police in Orissa are unable to face the Maoists. But they are all eager to flex their muscles on a poor tribal as he is opposing a mining project that will affect his livelihood. This is a cheap attempt of the Orissa Police to defame a poor tribal,” said Das.

Vedanta seeks alternative source of bauxite

The Pioneer, Aug 28, 2010

PNS, Bhubaneswar

In the wake of Centre’s disapproval of Stage II environment clearance for the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project, Chief Operating Officer of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) Mukesh Kumar on Friday requested the State Government to give an alternative source of bauxite for its Aluminium Refinery unit at Langigarh in Kalahandi district.
Sources said Steel and Mines Department is seeking legal aspects to knock the door of the Supreme Court against the Ministry of Forest and Environment’s decision that disapproved the environment clearance. The Government is also examining to find out alternative sources of bauxites which would be given to the Vedanta Aluminum Limited (VAL).
It is to be noted that the VAL has already stopped its six million tonne expansion programme as per the direction of the MoEF. But it will continue with operations at the existing one million tonne refinery in Lanjigarh. Vedanta needs 3 million tonnes of bauxite to operate its one million tonne refinery.
With Niyamgiri source of bauxite stopped, the company looks for other sources of bauxite and is stated to have requested the State Government for the same. Before an agreement was signed between the Odisah Mining Corporation and Vedanta Resources owned Sterlite, Vedanta had given six sources for getting bauxite. These sources include Sashubohumali, Kuturumali, Bijimali and Sadarmali.

Pradeep Majhi suggests other mining sites for Vedanta
The Pioneer, Aug 28, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar
State Pradesh Youth Congress president and MP Pradeep Majhi on Thursday said Vedanta can look for alternative sites except Niyamgiri from where it can mine bauxite to feed its one million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
He suggested the alternative sites of Kuturmali, Bijimali and Sabarmali hills which are in the periphery of Niyamgiri and there is no habitation of tribals in this region.
He said the Congress is not against industrialisation. There are many other hills where there are no tribals and that can be used by Vedanta which are only eight km from Niyamgiri. But it is clear that no mining activities would be allowed at Niyamgiri.

The Union Environment Ministry had rejected the environment clearance to Vedanta's bauxite mining project in the Nyamgiri hills citing serious violation of forest and environment laws.

Proposal approved for setting up University in city

Note: Like this, there is a great potential of coming many private player to Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Berhampur region to establish new universities, medical college & hospital, for which state Govt. must reconsider to establish fully Govt institutions in backward pockets rather than in these regions.

The Pioneer, Aug 28, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar
The State Government on Thursday approved a proposal of Mata Amrutanandamayi Math Trust for setting up of a modern university in city at an investment of `700 crore. The proposed university would be provided 150 acre of land somewhere between Bhubaneswar and Khurda, informed Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra.
As per the proposal sanctioned by the CM, the Trust would set up a medical college and hospital along with institutions which would impart various courses under Arts and Science stream for nearly 25,000 students of which five per cent would be reserved for meritorious students belonging to BPL families. It would provide study loans to the poor meritorious students. The Trust would also open off-campuses in other cities of the State, he said.
Informing about the success story of the universities set up by the Trust, Mishra said the former has already set up five universities in three States including Tamil Nadu and Keral which have been successfully imparting quality education. The proposed university would spend `3 crore per bed in its medical college and hospital. The Trust would begin the construction work after lands are allotted. No special legislation would be required, the Minister said.

NRO bats for edu balance, Aug 27, 2010

Non Resident Odias laud the step taken by the Higher Education Department; Government of Orissa to establish the Orissa State Open University.

However, it is surprising to note that the headquarters of the Orissa State Open University has been proposed in Bhubaneswar in the preliminary draft bill without any public discussion, rue they.

This is totally injustice and irrational, feel leading NRO Digambara Patra.
In any modern democratic society now a days the state or national level institutions are distributed regionally all over the region, said Dr.Patra.

Some of the African nations have three capitals.

With the modern technology and communication, distance hardly plays any role for Open University education.

On the other hand, according to economist establishment of any such institution do play an important role to indirectly boost the local economy.

Unfortunately most of the time Orissa’s capital region has taken all these benefits keeping the backward regions in the dark, lamented he.

Earlier state level universities such as OUAT, Utkal University of Culture, Sri Jagganath Sankrit University, National Law University, etc were already established in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri regions.

These institutions have directly boosted the local economy.

In this context the proposed Open University should come in a backward place which is far away from the state capital and logically deserves to balance the existing regional imbalances.

Kalahandi/Nuapada regions are not only backward and far away compared to many other locations in coastal and eastern Orissa, but also is the central district among the backward KBK, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Bargarh and Boudh districts.

Bhubaneswar is the central location in the eastern bordering Orissa from Jaleswar to Parliakhemundi, similarly Kalahandi region is the central location in the western bordering Orissa from Baljod in Sundergarh to Motu in Malkangiri.

The headquarters of the Orissa State Open University should rather come in Kalahandi/Nuapada region as it will boost the local economy of this backward place and will not harm in growth of the institution, said he.

In addition it may help to dissipate growing regionalism in the state and balance the existing regional imbalances.

Therefore, we strongly suggest and request the preliminary bill should be modified and the headquarters of the proposed Orissa State Open University should be located in Kalahandi/Nuapada region, Dr.Patra urged.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Orissa Congress MP suggests alternative mines for Vedanta

Orissadiary , Aug 26, 2010
Bhubaneswar: Orissa Pradesh Youth Congress chief, Nabrangpur MP Pradeep Majhi on Thursday said Vedanta can look for alternative sites except Niyamgiri from where it can mine bauxite to feed its one- million- tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
He suggests alternative sites—Kuturmali, Bijimali and Sabarmali hills which are in the periphery of Niyamgiri and there are no habitation of tribals in this region. He said The Congress party is not against industrialization. There are many other hills where there are no tribals and that can be used by Vedanta which are only 8 kms from Niyamgiri. But it is clear that no mining would be allowed at Niyamgiri.
It should be noted that the Union Environment Ministry rejected environment clearance to Vedanta's bauxite mining project in the Nyamgiri hills citing serious violation of forest and environment laws.

Vedanta halts refinery expansion, questions Govt's intentions

Economic Times, Aug 27, 2010
MUMBAI/KOLKATA: Vedanta Aluminium has halted its expansion programme at the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, in Orissa, after the government issued a notification making it mandatory for companies to seek environment clearance for any major change in processes.

On August 24, the Central government said that Vedanta Aluminium had not sought prior approval for expanding the refinery capacity to 6 million tonnes from 1 million tonnes. Another government decision that day, announced by the minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, stopping plans to mine bauxite at Nyamgiri near Lanjigarh, attracted much more attention but the brake on the refinery expansion could have a longer term impact on the fortunes of Vedanta. The bauxite was to be supplied to the refinery.
The chief operating officer of the Anil Agarwal-controlled company, Mukesh Kumar, expressed his doubts on Thursday over the “intention” behind these announcements in view of an earlier notification.

The ministry of environment and forests had said on August 19 that for all projects which were increasing capacity and where terms of references—the guidelines and scope for any expansion—have been mentioned and where construction activities have been started, the terms of references may be suspended or withdrawn.

"Instances have come to the notice of this ministry where project proponents have undertaken construction activities without obtaining requisite environmental clearance...No activity relating to any project covered under this notification, including civil construction, can be undertaken at site without obtaining prior environmental clearance," the notification added.

The notification relates to environment impact assessment (EIA)— a crucial part of the project approval process under the Environment Protection Act. The EPA is the umbrella legislation that regulates the impact of all industrial and commercial activities on environment.

The Vedanta official said that no prior approval for expansion was needed according to the rules in place—the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006—before the changes announced on August 19.

"There is no threshold limit given in the EIA notification for such a project," Mr Kumar told ET. "Hence prior environment clearance, as per the notification for our proposed expansion, is not mandatory before undertaking any construction activities."

Mr Kumar also referred to a section in the 2006 notification which stipulates that approval to the terms of reference for any project has to be announced within 60 days from the date of submission. "If the decision is not conveyed within 60 days, then the terms of references suggested by the applicant, "shall be deemed as final terms for the EIA study."

Vedanta had submitted its proposal for expanding the capacity to the ministry of environment and forests for approval on October 3, 2007. The company didn't get approval within 60 days, which is the mandatory period as per the notification.

Mr Ramesh did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile.

While the expansion programme has been stopped, Vedanta Aluminium will continue with operations at the existing one million tonne refinery in Orissa. The unit is presently running at 90% capacity with bauxite purchased from outside the state. "Though Niyamgiri is off limit, we are hopeful of getting fresh allocation of bauxite reserves within 30 km of our refinery. There are some 500-600 mt of reserves in and around our refinery. Logistically, it won't be much of a problem," said Mr Kumar.

Vedanta needs three million tonnes of bauxite to operate its one million tonne refinery. The company has been sourcing 60% of its bauxite needs from group company Balco. It has also been using a blend of the ore using bauxite purchased from states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Dr.Sanjib Kumar Karmee letter to Rahul Gandhi to establish Indira Gandhi National Tribal University and National University at Kalahandi

Dear Shri Rahul Gandhi, Honorable Member of Parliament

cc: Bhakta Babu, Honorable Member of Parliament

:Journalists and thinkers of Orissa

I am a citizen of Orissa currently staying in the Netherlands. Your visit to Kalahandi was very much appreciated by the locals as reported by the media.

What will happen now? Is the govt. ready to help these tribals to become good sports person, scientists, thinker, educationalist etc etc. Will the govt. provide these tribals the best education to full-fill their dreams?

Please initiate steps to establish a National Tribal University at Kalahandi. Also, try to discuss with Shri Kapil Sibal to establish the proposed National University at Bhawanipatna.

I am sure you will bring some good cheer for the tribals of Kalahandi.

Thanking you with best regards,


Dr.Sanjib Kumar Karmee, PhD
Department of Biotechnology
Delft University of Technology
Julianalaan 136, 2628 BL Delft,
The Netherlands

Local leader, a Red suspect, takes the dais at Rahul rally

Times of India, Aug 27, 2010
LANJIGARH (KALAHANDI): One isn't sure whether Rahul Gandhi is aware who Lado Sikoka is, but the Dongria Kondh leader addressing the same tribal rally as the Congress general secretary on Thursday led to many an arched eyebrow because the police claims Sikoka is a suspected Maoist.

Sikoka (38), a prominent tribal agitating against Vedanta group's bid to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri Hills, delivered his address to thousands of people shortly before Rahul landed at the venue on a chopper. Sikoka, who has been in the news since the police picked him up on August 9 and later released him under mysterious circumstances, garlanded Rahul in the presence of senior Congress leaders and security personnel.

"We suspect he's a Maoist and had picked him up for verification," said DIG, south-western range, Sanjeeb Panda. Sikoka's presence on a platform along with Rahul came on a day PM reiterated his government's pledge to fight against the Maoists at a conference of police chiefs.

Police sources said the Red rebels have of late been frequenting the Niyamgiri Hills, which spread along the border of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, and Sikoka is in touch with them. While Kalahandi has thus far not recorded any significant extremist violence, Rayagada is among the worst Maoist-hit districts.

Sikoka, in his speech, said police had abducted him because he was opposing Vedanta and tortured him for four days by branding him a Maoist.

Conspiracy against Odisha, says BJD

The Pioneer, Aug 26, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

Terming the disapproval of stage II environment clearance for the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project as a political conspiracy by the Congress led UPA Government, the Biju Yuba Janata Dal (BYJD) on Thursday staged a dharna in front of Raj Bhawan and submitted a memorandum to the Governor entailing the Union Government has adopted an anti-people policy for the State.

10 MLAs of the BJD, mayors of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar and other leaders of the party joined the dharna led by BYJD president Sanjay Das Burma. The leaders came down heavily on the Congress led UPA Government and alleged that the latter was following different policies for different States.

Alleging that the Union Government was showing step motherly attitude towards the State, they said while the former gave requisite clearances to Andhra Pradesh for its Polavaram Project in which people of at least 29 villages of Malkanagiri district would be displaced and thousands of hectares of land would be submerged, it did a political game and disallowed approvals for the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project which would have brought a lot of developments in a backward region like Kalahandi district.

The BYJD also staged dharna in Bhawanipatna and Jagatisnghpur district headquarters. The protest assumes significance in the wake of general secretary of All India Congress Committee Rahul Gandhi addressed a public meeting at Langigarh.

Rahul's comment incorrect: Naveen

The Pioneer, Aug 27, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

Sharply reacting to the indirect allegation of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who said "suppressing the voice of tribal people is no development" at a public meeting at Langigarh on Thursday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik termed the Congress general secretary's allegation as 'incorrect' and said his Government has been working for the development of the Adivasis since it came to power.

The Chief Minister said this while speaking to mediapersons at the State Secretariat while he was asked to comment on Rahul's allegation.

Rahul while not pointing a direct finger at the State Government said in the meeting that development done by suppressing the voice of poor Adivasis was no development. Endorsing the Union Government's disapproval of state II environment clearance for Vedanta Resources' bauxite minintg project, Rahul termed the decision as victory of the Dongoria and Kutia Kondhs who fought peacefully for their rights on Niyamgiri hills. He also dubbed himself as a mere sepoy who fought for their cause at national level.

Rahul milks Kondhs

The Pioneer, Aug 27, 2010
Bikash Khemka, Bhawanipatna

Exploiting the halt on Vadanta's march to the hilt, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi reaped rich dividends from Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's move in Odisha. Taking all the credit and political mileage of the Vedanta misery, Rahul said the tribals of the area had pleaded with him to save their sacred mountain, Niyamgiri, as they worship it as their god.

Rahul Gandhi was addressing a public meeting of over 10,000 on the Tribal Rights Day at Kendubardi village of Lanjigarh block.

Recalling his last visit to Ijurpa village in the Lanjigarh area of Kalahandi district two years ago, Gandhi said the Dongria Kondhs and other tribes had alleged before him about acquisition of their land rights and destruction of the Niyamgiri hill. Remembering the place where the tribals had met him, he said there was a cottage where the tribes had appealed to him to save their sacred mountain and livelihood.

Gandhi's visit assumed political significance in view of the Centre's rejection of the State Government's recommendation for bauxite mining by Vedanta at the Niyamgiri hill.

Rahul Gandhi, who had last time committed that he would be the soldier of the tribals in New Delhi, said it was after his return that the voices of tribals were reaching up to New Delhi and even at international level. He praised the tribals for peaceful protests for their rights.

Comparing the rich and the poor, he said there are two Hindustans: One is for the rich and the other for the poor. While the voice of the rich can be noticed easily, that of the poor is not fairly audible.

Rahul Gandhi did not directly refer to the pro-industry forces but said that the accusation that "our decision" is against development is not true. "Development means each and every individual, including tribals and other poor sections, should develop simultaneously. Development does not mean suppression of the voice of the poor and tribals," he said.

He said a real Government should listen to the people's voice which "our UPA Government" is doing. He said his duty for saving the Niyamgiri hill is not over. "I am always with you (tribals)," he added.

PCC president KP Singh Deo, Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das, Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Bhupinder Singh, Titilagarh MLA Surendra Singh Bhoi and former Chief Ministers Giridhar Gamang and Hemanand Biswal accused the Naveen Patnaik Government of supporting illegal mining.

Around 50 pro-Vedanta activists under the banner of the Lanjigarh Anchalik Vikash Parishad were arrested while they were taking out a protest rally against Rahul Gandhi's visit to Lanjigarh.

Vedanta looks at Orissa govt for alternative bauxite source

Financial Express, Aug 26, 2010
Bhubaneswar: With bauxite from Niyamgiri out of the question, Vedanta Aluminium, the aluminium arm of London-based Vedanta Resources, is now looking up to the state government for alternative arrangement of bauxite supply to its plant.

The company’s 1-million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district is already operational. “As per the MoU signed in October 2004 with the Orissa government, the state government is suppose to supply 150 million tonne of bauxite for Vedanta’s alumina refinery,” said a company spokesperson. “Towards this, the Orissa government identified Niyamgiri mines as the initial sources of bauxite supply to the extent of 78 million tonne,” the spokesman pointed out.

In fact, the spokesman said, “In view of the ongoing delay in approval of the Niyamgiri mines, the Orissa government is actively considering allocation of alternate source of bauxite to Vedanta’s alumina refinery, from the state.”

Sources in the government said Vedanta has been assured Sasubahumali mines which promises about 81 million tonne of deposits.

The natural resources rich state of Orissa has the fourth largest reserves of bauxite deposits in the world; however, no new alumina refinery has been set up in the region in the last 25 years. The Kalahandi district, where Vedanta’s alumina refinery is located, is one of the most backward districts in the country. As on March 31, 2010, Vedanta had invested $5.4 billion in its aluminium projects in Orissa. Around 10,000 people are employed at the Lanjigarh alumina refinery plant.

“Vedanta remains committed to work with the local communities to ensure sustainable development in this region,” said Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer, Vedanta Alumina,.

In 1997, state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation and Sterlite Industries (Indian) Ltd.(SIIL), a group company of Vedanta Resources, entered into an MoU to develop and exploit bauxite from the Niyamgiri mines. Since, the mining lease is with the OMC, the two companies floated a joint venture company to encourage private investment in the world class bauxite mines.

Ecological sense in Niyamgiri

Economic Times, Aug 25, 2010
Environments are not just containers, but are processes that change the content totally, noted the savant who mused about communication mediums, messages and the global village. That was then, in the halcyon days of the sixties, and well before the phrase sustainable development had been coined.

Fast forward to the here and now, and the decision of the ministry of environment and forests to disallow bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district, Orissa, is clearly spot on. Niyamgiri is considered most sacred by the local Kondh adivasi population, and intensive mining activity would have been wholly alienating.

And apart from being socially devastating by forcefully removing its sense of mystery and lingering myths, mining on Niyamgiri would have also caused huge environmental and ecological damage in what is a fragile ecosystem.

Besides, there are plenty of proven bauxite reserves available elsewhere in the state, in adjoining districts and perhaps further afield in Kalahandi, with requisite prospecting. At a broader level, the idea that income growth can be positively beneficial for the environment needs to be qualified and nuanced.

Back in the path-breaking 1990s, the policy pundits did begin to take note of the growing empirical evidence that willy-nilly suggested that rising income levels could be ‘good rather than bad’ for the benefit of the environment. The evidence seemed to rubbish the notion of opposing growth on environmental grounds.

However, the reasoning that income growth by itself will be good for the environment also appears to be questionable and cannot really be taken at face value. For instance, a causal relationship between income and environmental quality cannot often be shown as correlated. Further, cultural factors may actually hamper and negate the income effects.

Although, going forward, it is plausible to assume that with proactive policy and rising incomes, better governance, more effective regulation and the steady diffusion of technological change all do tend to generally boost environmental protection on the ground.

Around Niyamgiri, for example, it would make better sense to rev up incomes by way of eco-tourism , cultivation of medicinal plants and arranging for boutique, leisure holidays in the lap of nature, for sustainable development . The environmental Kuznets curve, which shows that degradation at first increasing and then decreasing with rising incomes need not to be taken as inevitable, or verily accepted as a foregone conclusion.

In select habitats and regions, it should be eminently possible to chalk out plans for long-term income generation via better social indices, scope for profit earning and the like, sans large-scale physical damage to the environment. It is true that two years ago, the Supreme Court did give its conditional goahead for mining on Niyamgiri, and called for sustainable development, which cannot be faulted as a matter of principle.

However, the assumption that sacred space can be leveraged for guaranteed income streams — note that apex court ruling mandated 5% profit share complete with a floor level of annual welfare spend — may not be acceptable in practice.

BJP demands Naveen's resignation over Vedanta issue

Hindustan Times, Aug 25, 2010
The BJP on Wednesday demanded resignation of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik following Centre's rejection of environment clearance to Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Kalahandi district. "Naveen Patnaik has no moral right to continue as chief minister after indictment by Union environment ministry on the Vendanta mining issue," Orissa unit BJP president Jual Oram told reporters in Rourkela.

After getting the NC Saxena Committee report, Centre refused stage-II environment clearance to Vedanta's mining proposal in the Niyamgiri area stating that it has violated Forest Rights Act and Environment Protection Act, he said.

Oram said, "From the very beginning I have been opposing the mining plan by Vedanta."

Oram said now tribals of Kalahandi area will lead a peaceful life in the forest.

The Naveen Patnaik government has been "violating" their forest rights, Oram said and appealed the tribals to unitedly fight for their rights.

Vedanta plans scuppered as Rahul Gandhi champions tribals' cause

Economic Times. Aug 27, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: It was a classic case of David turning into Goliath almost overnight. Less than two days after the environment ministry rejected Vedanta’s bid to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa, the odds swung heavily in favour of the ancient Dongria Kondh tribe when Rahul Gandhi congratulated them on their victory and promised to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their fight against injustice. In the process, he also unfolded his party’s biggest tribal outreach initiative in recent memory.

“Your voice reached Delhi and you saved your land. I did what I could, but this is your victory,” Mr Gandhi said as he congratulated the tribal community for making its voice heard without resorting to violence. “Two years ago, I had told a gathering here that for the tribals of Kalahandi, there is a soldier in Delhi named Rahul Gandhi. My work is not finished, it has just begun. Whenever you need me, wherever, I am ready to stand with you,” he said amid loud cheers from his audience.

Mr Gandhi’s remarks during the visit to Lanjigarh, where Vedanta’s refinery is located, would make it extremely hard for the London-based MNC to get the Centre to review its decision to stop mining in the area.

For the Congress and for Mr Gandhi, the visit made an important political statement as they reached out to their former vote bank. Tribals , who once formed a significant slice of the Congress’ rainbow coalition , had drifted away from the party in recent years, leading to the party’s marginalisation in vast areas of northern and eastern India.

Rahul Gandhi's combative speech at the foothills of the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi, Orissa, addressing a gathering of tribal people eager to welcome a champion as powerful as ‘Indira’s grandson’, marks a new stage in his political evolution. There comes a time in the career of an heir apparent when appearance takes on the hard edge of reality.

Although the party has been making efforts to win back this social grouping, which account for 8% of the electorate, it has not been finding the right issue to connect with the population. That Mr Gandhi chose to launch the assault from Orissa should come as no surprise.

The party has been out of power in the state for over a decade and knowing that even the most popular of chief ministers, as indeed Naveen Patnaik is, will see their support wither, the Congress feels its time has come. There is also an emotive connect for Congressmen with the state as it was after all in Bhubaneswar that Indira Gandhi vouched, a day before her tragic assassination, that every drop of her blood will invigorate the nation.

In his speech, Mr Gandhi also sought to blunt the anti-development spin given to the Vedanta decision by the industry. “The decision to abandon the project does not mean that the government is against development ... Development means that every citizen of India develops... Our government in Delhi, our prime minister and Soniaji will fight for development and to give you a voice.” In other words, the government at the Centre will not allow industry to trample on citizens’ rights in the name of development.

These assertions of Mr Gandhi are in accord with the growing recognition that a better handling of mineral resources was required, especially in tribal areas, as it could alienate the local population from the mainstream. In her address to the Congress party in Parliament last Thursday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had conceded that reckless decisions over resources have been causing violent conflicts in the hinterland.

“What is most worrying is the high degree of convergence between areas that are mineral and forest-rich and areas that are the arenas for tribal deprivation and for Left-wing extremist violence,” Ms Gandhi had said. The Congress president had also noted that protecting the rights of the tribals and ensuring their livelihood were central to brining about an end to their exploitation and sense of alienation.

Anti-Vedanta MP once wanted alumina company in Niyamgiri

The Hindu, Aug 26, 2010
Today, he is known as a champion of tribal rights and a leader in the fight against Vedanta’s proposal to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri. But 14 years ago, Bhakta Charan Das, Congress MP from Kalahandi sang a different tune. “The Government of India and the Orissa government should take keen interest to set up at least a large alumina plant because we have got a heavy deposit of bauxite in Niyamgiri and Sijimalli of the Kalahandi district,” he had said during a November 1996 debate in the Lok Sabha on the drought situation in Orissa. “If there is an alumina plant, then a minimum of 40,000 people can sustain out of the different kinds of earnings from that.”

When asked about his statements on Thursday, Mr. Das initially insisted that he had only recommended mining in Sijimalli and not Niyamgiri. When faced with the Lok Sabha record, the MP, also the founder of the Green Kalahandi movement, admitted that he had learnt a lot since that day one-and-a-half decades ago.

“I had not visited Niyamgiri then. I did not know of the Dongria Kondh links to that place then. At that point, I did not know it was a densely forested area,” he said, speaking to The-Hindu over telephone immediately after the mass rally was held by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Niyamgiri area.

“Of course, the Kalahandi district needs more industries, but it should not be development at the cost of the people, at the cost of the forests,” Mr. Das said, adding that the Vedanta project had failed to generate sufficient local jobs, or provide health and education facilities. “I will still be happy to support an industry that takes into account the views of the local people, that will ensure the future of all stakeholders, that follows all the laws…There can be other mines, but why don’t they go and find an abandoned mountain, instead of Niyamgiri?”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is This The End To Vedanta’s Mining Ambitions In India? My Time In Niyamgiri

Shared by Shri Dillip Kumar Das
Times of India
A new report by a government committee has slammed the plans of UK-listed mining company Vedanta  Resources to mine the Niyamgiri Hills in the south eastern Indian state of Orissa. Run by Indian mining billionaire Anil Agarwal, Vedanta has been trying for years to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills to produce aluminum. But that plan endangers the Dongria Kondh, an indigenous tribe of 8,000 that has been has been living off the bounty of the thick forests for generations. The committee, which was set up by India’s Environment Minister, says Vedanta has acted with ‘total contempt for the law;’ that local officials have ‘colluded’ in the company’s illegal activity; that ‘it is established beyond any doubt that the [mining] area is the cultural, religious and economic habitat of the Dongria Kondh’ and that to allow Vedanta’s mine would be ‘illegal,’ campaign group Survival International reports. “The findings are unequivocal–mining will destroy the Dongria Kondh and should not be allowed. Let’s hope this is the final nail in the coffin for Vedanta’s plans,” it says.

I visited Niyamgiri earlier this year for a story I was reporting on Maoists in India. The nearly three-hour journey to reach the forest was on a dusty, skinny road, filled with potholes. I lost count of the number of trucks I passed that bore the company’s name. Yet the company had no interest in paving the road. On the way to Niyamgiri I passed gorgeous bungalow-style buildings with white walls and red roofs, almost in the lap of the lush forests. That was where Vedanta housed its execs.

The day I visited, a Tuesday, there was a weekly market in the heart of the forest. Members of the Dongria Kondh had come to sell their produce and had displayed their goods on either side of a narrow path: lentils, rice, dried fish, tobacco, potatoes, ginger, turmeric, bananas. Some of the men agreed to talk to me while most of the women turned their backs if I tried to talk to them or take a photograph. I took the hint.

I met Ranga Majhi who had wrapped up his sales and was standing there, chatting with 3-4 others, an axe casually resting on his shoulders. “Other than salt I get everything from these hills,” he told me. “We will kill with this,” he said gripping the axe, “but we will not let the company come in here.” His sentiment was echoed by another in the crowd–Sona Majhi. “We won’t give up Niyamgiri,” he said. “Our forefathers have been living here. You expect us to leave and do what? We don’t want anything from Vedanta–no schools, no hospitals. When I fall sick I take medicines from the trees and plants and get okay.” (I saw the Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar” after I came back to New York from this reporting trip and the resemblance between reality and fiction was unbelievable. It was suddenly so easy to explain to my editor what I had seen in Niyamgiri. The company’s COO told me that the comparison was an insult.)

At the base of the hill is an area called Lanjigarh where Vedanta has a refinery for its bauxite. Across the street from it live villagers who’ve lost their land to the refinery. In another village nearby called Rengopalli, nine people died last year of tuberculosis and bronchitis. Vedanta has a red mud pond for the waste disposal from its refinery next to this village with a second pond under way. As I walked around the village I saw that “Vedanta” was stamped everywhere–on electricity poles, across the walls of a rundown, one-room clinic. The residents of Rengopalli told me that once the company had taken over most of their land, it enrolled about 115 young men in a vocational school in a town nearby so they could train to become plumbers and electricians and also paid for their room and board. When the men came back to the village and asked for jobs, a manager at the refinery told them, “You tribals were living like monkeys, we sent you on this training so you could learn how to dress like a person and wear pants and a shirt. Now go look for a job on your own.” But Vedanta told me that it had told them to apply for jobs in its subsidiaries as there were no openings on that site.

As I was leaving the forest I remember thinking who would win this battle between tribals and this powerful and giant corporation. But as I was was getting into my car a man in plainclothes came up to me and asked me my name and what I was doing there. When I told him I was a journalist he said he was from the Intelligence Bureau, warned me to not roam in the area, and certainly not in the forest, unprotected. Reason: Maoist activity had picked up in the area.

Govt for more medical colleges on PPP mode

The Pioneer, Aug 23, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

The State Government is keen to set up more medical colleges and hospitals in the State on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode, said Health and Family Welfare Minister Prasanna Acharya on Saturday.

Achary said it in a joint meeting held between Health and Family Welfare Department and Planning and Coordination Department at the State Secretariat. Planning and Coordination Minister AU Singh Deo attended the meeting. In the meeting it was informed that out of the three medical colleges and hospitals being set up by the Western Odisha Development Council, one at Rourkela is about to be complete soon.

While construction of hospital is over, construction work of college is going on. A high-level committee headed by DMET would go for an inspection to the college site on August 26 and on their report the Government would provide requisite no objection certificate.

Though, construction work of the most part of the second college of WODC at Kalahandi has been complete, presently, the construction company has halted the rest of the work due to some reason. It was decided that the Planning and Coordination Department would talk to the construction company and would take step for expediting the work.

The Government has also decided to publish advertisements again for WODC’s third proposed medical college and hospital at Balangir.

Coal-India has not sought NOC for its proposed medical at Talcher. Sahayog Foundation would set up one at Keonjhar on PPP mode. But the proposal of Blue Wheel Trust for setting up of a medical college and hospital at Nayagarh has not been accepted.

Proposal of Bharati Trust for a medical college at Raygada is under active consideration of the Government.

Informing about the proposal of the Government medical college and hospital which would be set up at Koraput under RLTP programme, the Minister said the proposal was sent to the Central Government, but no response has been received by the State Government. This proposal would be sent again to the Union Government.

He informed that the construction works of All India Ayurvedic Institute is in a full swing. There is a possibility that the students would be able to get admission in this college in 2012-13.

UPA Govt politicising Niyamgiri issue: Minister

The Pioneer, Aug 23, 2010
PNS, Bhawanipatna

Slamming the UPA Government, Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout said during a Press conference here that it is politicising the Niyamgiri issue. The Centre is not interested in the development of the State anymore, alleged Rout.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders have raised their eyebrows on the visit of All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahu Gandhi to Niyamgiri hills and have decided to observe it as Black Day on August 26 on Tribals Day.

After clearance from the Supreme Court, Central Government and Forest Department, the State Government was functioning on their decision.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had the asked the State Government to expedite the Posco project nine times. President Pratibh Patil had also asked Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik to speed up the project, Rout told the reporters.

Rout alleged that the NC Saxena Committee is being biased by the NGOs which are barring the development of industries in Odisha. The Central Government was too much interested in the mining projects.

After clearance from the Central Government and Forest Ministry, again questions are being raised on violation. On Polavarum issue , the Central Government never consulted the State Government and within seven days the project got a clearance, Rout said.

Among others, District Collector Rupa Mishra, BCCB president Kali Raiguru, Jagyenswar Rout and Balabhadra Majhi were also present in the conference.

Speculations rife on visits of CM to Delhi, Rahul to Odisha

The Pioneer, Aug 23, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

With the scheduled Lanjigarh visit of All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi on August 26, speculations are rife now in political circle in the State over the NC Saxena Committee's Niyamgiri approval withdrawal suggestion given to the Ministry of Forest and Environment. The ball is now in Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh's court. Ramesh will take a final decision on the Niyamgiri mining approval issue.

Meanwhile Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's impromptu visit to Delhi on Sunday has also fuelled such speculations to a greater extent.

As per the political analysts, Rahul's visit assumes significance at a time when the Saxena Committee's allegations have baffled the State Government. The committee has alleged that the State Government has violated various environment-related laws in giving bauxite mining recommendations to Vedanta Aluminum limited at Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district. It has also suggested to the Union Government to withdraw the first phase approval given on April 28, 2009 after a hectic two-day meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee meeting (FAC).

Though Pradesh Congress Committee president KP Singh Deo has confirmed that Rahul is coming to Lanjigarh to see to the protection of medicinal plants and to review the rights of tribal people on land, water and forests, political circles are not ready to accept it as so simple as Singh Deo has said.

Some senior leaders speculate Gandhi's visit to Niyamgiri as a gimmick which would prove the concern of the Congress for the tribal people supporting the project later, if Ramesh withdraws first phase approval and disallows VAL to mine at Niyamgiri hills.

Rahul is scheduled to interact with members of primitive tribal groups, including the Dongaria Kondhs, the major affected tribe, due to the Vedanta project.

Sources said, the Chief Minister, during his two-day sudden visit to New Delhi, would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and appraise him about the recommendations given to VAL in the ambit of law. He is also likely to impress him not to take any step which would distract investments to the State, sources said. Earlier on Saturday, Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout paid visit to the Niyamgiri area and had interactions with the Dongaria Kandhs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Order of Ministry of Environment and Forests to form Saxena committe to look into bauxite mining in Niyamgiri

Thanks to Shri Dillip Kumar Das

National Front for Tribal Self -Rule

Thanks to Shri Dillip Kumar Das for sharing this.


Thanks to contributor Shri Dillip Kumar Das
August 16, 2010
Dr N C Saxena

Dr S Parasuraman
Dr Promode Kant
Dr Amita Baviskar

Submitted to the
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Government of India
New Delhi


The proposed mining lease (PML) area, which lies on the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills, is surrounded by dense forests and is the habitat for diverse species of plant and animal life.

The PML site is largely grassland surrounded by sal forests. This type of grassy meadow eco-system is usually found on lateritic zones on upper reaches at about 700 metres and above. The fact that this ecosystem is mostly prevalent in areas inhabited by the Dongaria Kondh suggests that, besides natural geological and climatic factors, it has also been modified by human actions such as burning for grasses and collection of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) practiced over a long period by the hill tribes. Fires are an annual feature leading to patches of grassy blanks. This retrogression, combined with grazing, adds to the area of the naturally occurring meadows.

Some 20 species of orchids are found in and around the PML. The members of the Dongaria Kondh tribe use these plants as medicines to treat different ailments like scorpion and snake bites, stomach disorders, arthritis, tuberculosis, paralysis, cholera, acidity, eczema, tumours, menstrual disorders, wounds and sores, diarrhoea, dysentery, bone fractures, rheumatism, asthma, malaria, etc.

The Niyamgiri massif is important for its rich biodiversity. In addition, it also plays the critical role of linking forests of Kandhamal district to forests of Rayagada, Kalahandi and Koraput districts. These forests also join the Karlapat wildlife sanctuary in the north-west and Kotagarh wildlife sanctuary in the north-east. They thus have high functional importance in creating an uninterrupted forest tract which is part of a continuous long corridor extending outside the protected area. Such corridors are particularly important for the conservation of wildlife species like elephant and tiger found in this region. The wild life productivity of this habitat is particularly high because it provides the valuable ‘edge effect’ to wild animals with open grasslands as feeding space and the neighbouring trees for shelter and escape.

The forested slopes of the Niyamgiri hills and the many streams that flow through them provide the means of living for Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh tribes. These are Scheduled Tribes, with the Schedule V of the Indian Constitution which enjoins the government to respect and uphold the land rights of Scheduled Tribes applying to the entire Niyamgiri hills region. These tribes are also notified by the government as ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ and eligible for special protection. While the Dongaria Kondh live in the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills, the Kutia Kondh inhabit the foothills. The Dongaria Kondh derive their name from dongar or hill. The Niyamgiri hills are the sole habitat of this group whose distinctive identity is evident in their unique language, agro-forestry expertise, social structure, and religious practices. At least 1453 Dongaria Kondh (20 per cent of the total population of the community numbering 7952 as of the 2001 census) live in villages in and around the Forest Blocks of the proposed mining lease area.

The two communities regard the Niyamgiri hills as sacred and believe that their survival is dependent on the integrity of its ecosystem. The PML site is amongst the highest points in the hills and it is considered especially important as a sacred site. All the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh villagers that the Committee conversed with emphasized the connection between their culture and the forests of the Niyamgiri hills. The proposed mining lease (PML) area is used by both Dongaria and Kutia Kondh and is part of their Community Reserved Forests as well as their habitat, since they depend on it for their livelihoods as well as socio-cultural practices. Their reverence for the hills is rooted in their strong dependence on the natural resources that the mountains provide. Their customary practices in the area include agriculture, grazing and the collection of minor forest produce. The age-old access of Kutia and Dongaria Kondh to the PML area and the surrounding forests has been recognised in several forest settlement reports and Working Plans, and was also confirmed by the forest staff to the Committee members during their field visit.

The PML is locally known as Aonlabhata for the large number of Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) trees to be found on its edges, the fruit of which is harvested for medicinal use and for sale. The PML and the neighbouring forests are also known to be the source of many other forest products including edible mushrooms and honey, items that are important sources of nutrition in the Kondh diet as well as marketable commodities that fetch them a good income.

The tiny community of the Dongaria Kondh, who live in the upland areas of the Niyamgiri hills, depend on the hills intensely. Their distinctive cultural identity is intrinsically linked to the Niyamgiri hills and they have crafted a diverse and intricate agro-forestry system that uses mountain slopes and streams to great advantage. Dongaria Kondh cultivate patches of land cleared from the forest that are rotated to maintain soil fertility. Since their population is very small, they regard land as plentiful and leave most of it forested. They are renowned for their skill in horticulture. The fruit that they grow on forest plots fetches them a handsome income throughout the year. In addition, they collect a variety of forest produce and also rear chicken, pigs, goats and buffaloes.

Ecological Costs of Mining

Mining operations of the intensity proposed in this project spread over more than 7 square km would severely disturb this important wildlife habitat. The entire Niyamgiri hills will suffer major ecological damage if mining is allowed in the PML area.

Several perennial springs flow from below the top plateau, which is a part of the proposed mining lease site. It appears likely that the PML could be one of the main sources of Vamsadhara river. If this is true then mining in this plateau will be hydrologically disastrous.

• As many as 1,21,337 trees will have to be cut in case the mining lease is granted. Of these trees approximately 40 per cent would be in the mining lease area while the remaining 60 per cent would have to be removed to construct the access road and other mine related planned activities.

• Given that more than 1.21 lakh trees have to be felled; and since the number of shrubs and large herbs in a rich tropical forest are at least thrice the number of trees, it can be reasonably concluded that more than 3.63 lakh shrubs and ground level flora would also be cleared under the project.

• The PML (and the Niyamgiri Hills habitat) is highly productive in terms of wildlife since it provides the valuable ‘edge effect’ to wild animals, with open grasslands as feeding space and neighbouring trees for shelter and escape.

• The grasses are breeding and fawning ground for Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjac), as well as Spotted Deer (Axis axis). A rare lizard, Golden Gecko (Callodactylodes aureus), is found on the proposed lease area.

• The value of Niyamgiri hill forests as an important elephant habitat is well recognized; therefore this habitat has been included within the South Orissa Elephant Reserve. Mining on the scale proposed in this habitat would severely disturb elephant habitats, and threaten the important task of elephant conservation in south Orissa. That mining causes severe disturbance to elephant habitats has already been demonstrated in Keonjhar district.

Human Costs of Mining

The PML area falls under four different administrative categories of forests. Though there are no villages inside the PML area itself, there are four villages inside the boundaries of the four forest blocks, as per the topo sheet, and 12 villages inside these four blocks as per government notification. In addition, there are 27 villages adjoining to the four Forest Blocks as per the topo sheet.

Mining, if permitted, will directly affect a substantial section (almost 20 per cent of their entire population in this world!) of the Dongaria Kondh community. An impact on such a significant fraction of the population of the community will have repercussions on the community’s very survival, the overall viability of this group and its biological and social reproduction.

All the 104 Dongaria Kondh villages are linked by marriage, since the member of a clan must seek a spouse from another clan. The circulation of women and bride-price between villages is essential for maintaining the social and economic integrity of the community. The mining operations will also have significant adverse impact on the livelihoods of these communities for three reasons.

• The mining operations will destroy significant tracts of forest lands. Since the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh are heavily dependent on forest produce for their livelihood, this forest cover loss will cause a significant decline in their economic well-being.

• Their cultivation lands lie in close proximity to the PML area. Mining-related activities such as tree-felling, blasting, the removal of soil, road building, and the movement of heavy machinery will deny them access to their lands that they have used for generations.

• These activities will also adversely affect the surrounding slopes and streams that are crucial for their agriculture.

It is clearly indicated that if the economic and social life of one-fifth of Dongaria Kondh population is directly affected by the mining, it will threaten the survival of the entire community - mining would destroy their economic, social and cultural life.

Enforcement of the Forest Rights Act

The entire PML area falls in the category of Community Forest Resource (CFR) as defined in section 2(a) of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) for the tribals living in the villages inside or surrounding the four forest blocks, the list of which is given in section 2.B.i. In addition to these villages, there are several villages within one to five km aerial distance from the proposed mining lease (PML) area. The entire PML area (including the area of all the four forest blocks) is clearly the habitat of the two Primitive Tribal Groups and their villages, as defined in section 2(h) of the FR Act.

These villages have been vested with recognizable community and habitat rights by GoI under section 4(1) of the FRA, and the procedure laid down in section 6 of the FRA must be followed by the district authorities. These rights should have been formalized by now, as the Act came into being more than two years ago on the 1 January, 2008. As holders of these rights, the entire Dongaria Kondh community and Kutia Kondh living close to the four forest blocks are empowered under section 5(c) of the Act to ensure that their habitat is preserved from any form of destructive practices that affects their cultural and ecological heritage. The state government cannot take any action that appropriates a part of their habitat without following the due process of law.

• As per the Preamble of the FR Act, forest dwellers are ‘integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem’. Therefore, in law, forests now include forest dwellers and are not limited to trees and wildlife. Since the MoEF is charged with the responsibility of implementing the Forest Conservation Act, it has to ensure that both forests and forest dwellers are protected.

• As far as forest rights are concerned, the Forest Rights Act, is a special law and therefore the authorities specified under it override those recognized by the Forest Conservation Act, a more general law. Section 5(c) has authorized the Gram Sabhas to ensure that their habitat is preserved from any form of destructive practices affecting their cultural and natural heritage. MoEF, as the authority under the Forest Conservation Act, cannot override the statutory authority under the Forest Rights Act, viz. the Gram Sabhas. MoEF would in fact be guilty of violating the FR Act, if it ignores the wishes of the Gram Sabhas.

• The FR Act does not provide for modification of rights for any purpose other than conservation of critical wildlife habitats. The Section 5 of the Act vests the Gram Sabhas and the forest dwellers with statutory rights to their habitats, where they have the authority to conserve, protect and manage forests, biodiversity, wildlife, water catchment areas and their cultural and natural heritage. The rights conferred under the Forest Rights Act automatically imply that free, prior and informed consent of forest dwellers such as the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh is a prerequisite for the diversion/destruction of the forest that they inhabit. The consent of these communities is required before any damage or destruction of their habitat and community forests is authorized. This is independent of the fact whether the Gram Sabhas submit their claims for the PML area or not.

• Appropriation of land over which tribal and other inhabitants of these habitats have well-recognized ownership and access rights, without due process of law and without consulting the villagers themselves, would not only violate the Forest Conservation Act, but would also forcefully evict forest-dwelling Scheduled Castes and Tribes from their lands and prevent them from exercising their rights under FRA over their habitats.

• According to section 4(5) of FRA, there can be no removal or eviction of people from forest land unless the tribal rights under FRA have been recognized and the verification procedure is complete. In order to ensure the compliance of this section, MOEF, vide its circular F.No. 11-9/1998-FC (pt) dated 3 August, 2009, asked the state government to submit a number of certificates to GoI, before its proposal for diversion under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 can be considered. These certificates included letters from each of the concerned Gram Sabhas, indicating that all formalities/processes under the FRA have been carried out, and that they have given their consent to the proposed diversion. The District Collectors did not attach any of these letters from the Gram Sabhas in their certificates given in March 2010.

• The Chief Secretary, Orissa in a general direction dated 24 October, 2009, to all District Collectors, had instructed that proposals for diversion of forest land should be put before the Gram Sabhas, and their consent or rejection should be attached. This directive was also ignored by the district administration of Rayagada and Kalahandi: the letters from the Gram Sabhas were not attached with the certificates given by the Collectors.

• The district authorities have failed to provide maps and electoral rolls to the Gram Sabhas as provided in rule 6(b) of the FR Rules. Hence they have violated these FR Rules. In addition, they have also failed to act under rule 12(3) of FR Rules. This rule mandates that if a forest area is used by more than one Gram Sabha, the Forest Rights Committees of the respective Gram Sabhas shall meet jointly to consider the nature of enjoyment of such claims, and submit the findings to the respective Gram Sabhas in writing. As the PML habitat may be common to a large number of villages or an entire tribal group, it was incumbent upon the district administration to call a meeting of multiple concerned villages. In fact, by failing to record the community and habitat rights of the Kondh, these officers are guilty of violating the law. They should not forget that they could be punished under section 7 of the FR Act for contravening the provisions of the Act and the Rules. However, we are not recommending their prosecution, but we will suggest that they be sent for a specially designed training programme on ‘Forest Rights Act and Tribal Development’.

• From the meeting with the senior officers and the Chief Secretary, it was apparent that the district administration has been reluctant to act fairly and firmly under section 6 of the Act to formalize the rights of Kondh over the PML area, as the state government has already decided to transfer the said land for mining. Hence, it was not keen to recognize community and habitat rights of the Primitive Tribal Groups over the PML area. This is in spite of the undisputed fact that, as dictated by the FR Act, government authorities have no discretionary rights to ignore these rights. Not only is the transfer of community resources for mining without seeking their informed consent unfair, it is also illegal after the enactment of the FR Act. The administration has also failed to consult the PTGs and other forest dwellers about the impact of mining on their lives after the passing of FR Act. Their consent for diversion of land has not been taken.

• Claims from Gram Sabhas for the PML area - Despite the reluctance of the district administration and state government, several Gram Sabhas have already passed resolutions claiming community and habitat rights over the PML area under various sub sections of section 3, such as (1)(b), (c) and (e), and forwarded the same to the SDLC, as provided in section 6(1) of FRA. For instance, the resolution of the Gram Sabha of village Kendubardi demanding rights over Aonlabhata (one of the local name for the PML area) has been received in the SDLC in Aug 2009. Similarly, the Palli Sabha resolution dated 8 January, 2010, from village Phuldumer, which was visited by the chairperson, states, ‘We use Aonlabhata (Badabhatta) the area of Niyamgiri which is the proposed mining lease area of Vedanta’. Rather than process such applications as under law, the district authorities chose to give a false certificate in March 2010 (annexure 1) that there have been no claims from the Gram Sabhas for the area covered under mining lease.

• After the visit of the committee members to village Khambesi, their Palli Sabha too passed a resolution on 30 July, 2010, stating, ‘It was unanimously decided that as the proposed area is the primary source of our life and livelihood as well as the basis of our culture, the mining would be protested. Through this Gram Sabha resolution this message would be conveyed to the committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, not to allow the VEDANTA company for the extraction of bauxite from the Niyamagiri reserve forest, Proposed Khambesi reserve forest, proposed Nimagiri reserve forest and other adjacent forest areas’.

• There is yet another formality to be completed by Orissa government. Since in district Rayagada the formalities of section 6 onwards under the Orissa Forest Act in respect of Khambesi and Nimagiri PRF have not been completed, it is clear that the condition (xvii) imposed by GoI in its order dated 11 December, 2008, has not been fulfilled.

• From the evidence collected by the Committee, we conclude that the Orissa government is not likely to implement the FR Act in a fair and impartial manner as far as the PML area is concerned. It has gone to the extent of forwarding false certificates and may do so again in future. The MoEF is advised not to believe the Orissa government’s contentions without independent verification. GoI should therefore engage a credible professional authority to assist people in filing their claims under the community clause for the PML area with the state administration. Even if the applications for habitat and community rights are filed, there is the danger that these can be arbitrarily rejected. Hence the authority established by GoI must follow these applications through each stage, and inform MoEF immediately of violations of the Act and its Rules. Similarly any certificate given by the district and state authorities regarding the consent of Gram Sabhas to diversion of forest area for mining must be subject to independent scrutiny by this authority. Based on these objective reports, the GoI has to draw its conclusions about the intent and actions of the state administration and act appropriately.

• It is established beyond any doubt that the area proposed for mining lease (PML) and the surrounding thick forests are the cultural, religious and economic habitat of the Dongaria Kondh. Section 4 of the FRA recognizes these rights, and these facts are undisputed. The Government of Orissa and the district committees have to complete the procedure as given in section 6 of the Act, and formalize the rights of the indigenous communities and correct its administrative records. The rejection of the claims of the Primitive Tribal Groups on any grounds whatsoever is illegal on the part of district or sub-divisional committees. If such action is taken against the PTG by the Orissa Government, GoI has to conclude that provisions of FR Act have not been followed by the state government. Based on this, it must withdraw the stage one clearance given under FCA for the said area.

In sum, the MOEF cannot grant clearance for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes except if:

1. The process of recognition of rights under the Forest Rights Act is complete and satisfactory;

2. The consent of the concerned community has been granted; and

3. Both points have been certified by the Gram Sabha of the area concerned (which must be that of the hamlet, since this is a Scheduled Area).

All of these conditions, not any one, must be satisfied. This is irrespective of the fact whether people have filed claims or not. In short, the circular of 3 August, 2009, by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which lays down these conditions has articulated the correct legal position. The Ministry should enforce its circular with all the authority at its command. There are already a large number of Palli Sabha resolutions from Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, where people have applied for forest rights on the same area that is proposed to be given on lease for mining. Some Palli Sabhas have explicitly opposed the diversion of their forests for mining. The Sarpanch of Parsali (district Rayagada) gave such an application personally to the Chairperson which was handed over to the Collector on the 9th July. Therefore there is incontrovertible evidence that the three conditions listed above are not satisfied, and therefore the application of Orissa government for diversion of forest land should be rejected.

If mining is permitted on this site it will not only be illegal but it will also:

• Destroy one of the most sacred sites of the Kondh Primitive Tribal Groups

• Destroy more than seven square kilometers of sacred, undisturbed forest land on top of the mountain that has been protected by the Dongaria Kondh for centuries as sacred to Niyam Raja and as essential to preserving the region’s fertility.

• Endanger the self-sufficient forest-based livelihoods of these Primitive Tribal Groups

• Seriously harm the livelihood of hundreds of Dalit families who indirectly depend upon these lands through their economic relationship with these Primitive Tribe Groups,

• Build roads through the Dongaria Kondh’s territories, making the area easily accessible to poachers of wildlife and timber smugglers threatening the rich biodiversity of the hills

Violation of Forest Conservation Act

• The company is in illegal occupation of 26.123 ha of village forest lands enclosed within the factory premises. The claim by the company that they have only followed the state government orders and enclosed the forest lands within their factory premises to protect these lands and that they provide access to the tribal and other villagers to their village forest lands is completely false. This is an act of total contempt for the law on the part of the company and an unbelievable degree of collusion on the part of the concerned officials.

• For the construction of a road running parallel to the conveyor corridor, the company has illegally occupied plot number 157(P) measuring 1.0 acre and plot number 133 measuring 0.11 acres of village forest lands. This act is also similar to the above although the land involved is much smaller in extent.

Violation of the Environment Protection Act (EPA)

• The company M/s Vedanta Alumina Limited has already proceeded with construction activity for its enormous expansion project that would increase its capacity six fold from 1 Mtpa to 6 Mtpa without obtaining environmental clearance as per provisions of EIA Notification, 2006 under the EPA. This amounts to a serious violation of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act. This expansion, its extensive scale and advanced nature, is in complete violation of the EPA and is an expression of the contempt with which this company treats the laws of the land.

Violation of conditions of Clearance under EPA granted to Refinery

• The refinery was accorded clearance under the EPA on the condition that no forest land would be used for the establishment of the refinery. But now it is clearly established that the company has occupied 26.123 ha of village forest lands within the refinery boundary with the active collusion of concerned officials. Hence, the environmental clearance given to the company for setting up the refinery is legally invalid and has to be set aside.

Very limited relevance to the expanded Refinery:

• The mining activities in the PML site will have limited relevance to the refinery now under its six fold expansion as the 72 million ton ore deposit here would last only about four years for the increased needs of the expanded refinery. In balance against this are the severe adverse consequences on the primitive tribal people, environment, forests and wildlife that inhabit these forests.

Non-implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA)

The concerned area is a schedule V area where PESA is applicable. Thus, in addition to the implementation of FRA, the state government also has to ensure the compliance of the following provisions of PESA:

Section 4(i): The Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects.

section 4(d) : every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution;

section 4(m) (iii), according to which Gram Sabha has the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alienated land of a Scheduled Tribe.


• On the basis of oral and documentary evidence collected by the Committee it is established beyond dispute that Dongaria and Kutia Kondh have had traditional, customary, and often formalized access to the PML area as well as to the surrounding thick forests on the slope to collect various types of forest produce. These rights would be extinguished if the area is transferred for mining.

• The Ministry of Environment and Forests cannot grant clearance for use of forest land for non-forest purposes because the legal conditions for this clearance as laid down by its circular of 3 August, 2009, have not yet been met. These include the following: the process of recognition of rights under the Forest Rights Act has not been completed; the consent of the concerned community has neither been sought nor obtained; and the Gram Sabhas of the area concerned (hamlets in a Scheduled Area) have not certified on both these points as required.

• Mining will severely degrade the Niyamgiri hills ecosystem which is a rich wildlife habitat and an important and recognized elephant corridor, endanger the Dongaria Kondh’s self-sufficient forest-based livelihoods, and lead to the extinction of their culture over a period of time.

• More than 7 square kilometres of the sacred undisturbed forest land on top of the mountain that has been protected for ages by the Dongaria Kondh as sacred to their deity, Niyam Raja, and essential for the region’s fertility, will be stripped off its vegetation, soil and rendered into a vast barren exposed land.

• Mining will build roads through the Dongaria’s territories, opening the area to outsiders, a trend that is already threatening the rich biodiversity of the hills.

• The mining at the proposed mining lease site will provide only 3Mtpa of ore out of the total annual requirement of 18 Mtpa of the Refinery after its ongoing expansion from the existing capacity of 1 Mtpa to 6 Mtpa (for which they have already nearly completed the work even before getting permission). The proposed mining site thus has low relevance to the future of the Refinery and is not critical at all for its functioning as is being claimed by the Company and the state officials.

• The Vedanta Company has consistently violated the FCA, FRA, EPA and the Orrisa Forest Act in active collusion with the state officials. Perhaps the most blatant example of it is their act of illegally enclosing and occupying atleast 26.123 ha of Village Forest Lands within its refinery depriving tribal, dalits and other rural poor of their rights.

In view of the above this Committee is of the firm view that allowing mining in the proposed mining lease area by depriving two Primitive Tribal Groups of their rights over the proposed mining site in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of tribal people in the laws of the land which may have serious consequences for the security and well being of the entire country.