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Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk 

While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.
Giving reason for opposition to the project, NAPM said, “Well-aware of the deleterious impacts of mining, the villagers, organized as Mali Parvat Surakhya Samiti have been resisting the Hindalco bauxite mining project proposal since many years”, claiming, “The company has hired goons from different parts of Koraput to prevent people from expressing their dissent to the mining proposal.”
NAPM in a statement quoted a key leader of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti as stating that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report falsely claims that “there is no forest in the mining lease region, that there are no grass patches, no animals, no flora and fauna of any value and no perennial water sources or streams.”

Excerpt:

Activists who have been following this issue closely in Odisha state that about 44 villages around Mali Parbat shall be affected directly and more than 200 villages shall be affected indirectly. Villagers claim that numerous streams flow from hill or enrich the soil moisture. There are 32 perennial streams and four canals that emerge from this hill.
Nearly 2,500 families living in 44 villages rely on this water for irrigation of their fields and take up vegetable and other cultivation. Mining will significantly affect the streams and soil moisture and thereby devastating a thriving livelihoods option for the local people.
Other likely hazards due to the mining include water and soil pollution. Dumping of oil, lubricants and other waste material of the mining area will have huge adverse bearing on water, land and forest resources of the region.
Locals allege that neither the company nor the government officials have clearly explained to the villagers the adverse impact of adverse effects of mining. There is a serious complaint about the manner in which EIA process has been approached.
They contend that the EIA report for the mining project, prepared by VIMTA Laboratory Pvt Ltd of Hyderabad, has totally neglected and disregarded impact of mining on the water sources and subsequent consequence on agriculture and horticulture.
While adverse impacts on water resources is likely to be catastrophic and permanent in nature, serious land degradation is likely to be huge too. That aspect has also not been assessed and recorded in the EIA. Soil erosion due to mining and deforestation is already among the highest in Odisha. Koraput already has other bauxite mines, including Deomali.
That the region is reeling under very serious soil erosion and land degradation. Mining of Mali Parbat will surely increase manifold the rate of soil and land degradation. This area comes under the catchment area of Upper Kolab Reservoir.
Thus, erosion will lead to huge silt deposition in the Kolab reservoir which has already lost a lot of storage capacity due to massive siltation. Such siltation will greatly undermine efficiency of the reservoir in producing electricity and providing irrigation. Even the life span of the dam will be immensely threatened.
Mali Parbat is home to many rare medicinal plants and species like Hada sakada, Patala garuda, Bhuin Penga, Haladi kanda, Kalad Kanda, Anala, Bahada, Harida, Pita kanda (all are local names) etc. Mining will affect these rare medicinal plants.
Many rare species and plants like Pitakonda, Taraka konda, Kakudi plant, Charu koli plants are also available in this hill. They are part of local people’s food, nutrition and medicinal eco-system. Mining will have an adverse effect on all these rare plants. Similarly, the hills are a natural habitat of Bear, Sambar, Kutura, Peacock etc. Mining activities along with increased human ingress, vehicular movement etc. will affect the animal habitation.
Not just environmental stakes, people have direct religious and cultural connect with the hills.There is a religious place of the adivasis in the Mali Parbat known as Pakuli Pahar Gumpha (sacred cave). The deity of this religious place is worshiped by the villagers of surrounding villages Aligon, Kumbhiguda, Daleiguda, Rajaniguda, Pakijhola, Mania etc.
Many religions and cultural practices of local people are associated with Pakuli Pahar Gumpha. This old religious place will be destroyed by mining. What makes the issue hazier and more threatening is the mining company’s eagerness to get lot more land that what is required and whose affect have not been properly assessed.
It is high time the Government of Odisha heeds to the demands of this two-decades old struggle of adivasis and withdraws the proposals for bauxite mining completely.

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