Orissa's anti-mining protests reach Delhi

Last Updated: Mon, Jul 27, 2009 17:01 hrs

Members of Orissa's Kondh tribe Monday gathered for a candle light vigil in the capital, urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop mining of the bauxite-rich Nyamgiri hills in their state.

According to the tribesmen and others supporting them, the mining of the Niyamgiri hills will lead to massive deforestation, affect water resources, destroy the local ecosystem and endanger wild animals commonly found in the area like tigers, leopards and elephants.

The mining will destroy the traditional way of life that indigenous communities like the Kondh tribe lead in the Niyamgiri hills, they said.

Damki Majhi, a tribesmen, said: 'If the mining starts, we can't stay there any more. Our streams, forests and crops will be destroyed...we are dependent on Niyamgiri for water.'

'We cannot eat money and we know it won't last long,' he added.

Among the various organisations supporting the Kondh tribe's cause and joining in the tribesmen's protest is the international aid agency, Action Aid.

According to Action Aid, the Supreme Court of India recently ruled in favour of the Britain-based mining company, Vedanta Resources, allowing it to go ahead with its proposed mining of the hills.

'This was even though the Centrally Empowered Committee appointed by the apex court stated that mining will lead to massive deforestation in the area and threaten the indigenous way of life there,' an Action Aid official said.

'In the recent past, a growing international scrutiny of Vedanta's activities in Orissa and elsewhere led the Norway Pension Fund to withdraw its investment of 15.6 million dollars from the company,' the Action Aid official said.

'We believe that the remaining shareholders need to be explained the true impact of the mining activity, carried out with their money and support, will have on this indigenous community,' the official added.