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'Mining polluting water in Gadchiroli': Demand to scrap new proposals, release protesters

Counterview Desk 
Several citizens' groups and activists, expressing solidarity with the arrested Adivasis and anti-mining protestors in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, have said that the voices of the defenders of the forests are being suppressed "using tools of police harassment and violence". 
A statement, initiated by the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), and endorsed by senior activists of civil society groups*, said, "For a long time now, Adivasi villagers have been resisting mining operations in Gadchiroli that threaten their sacred forests and nature-based livelihoods."

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As citizen groups working across the country for the causes of environmental and social justice, we extend our solidarity with Adivasis in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra who have been leading protests to protect their land and forests against iron ore mining projects. We note with deep concern and urgency the arrest of 21 protestors and activists on November 20th 2023.
The voices of the defenders of the forests are being suppressed using tools of police harassment and violence. For a long time now, Adivasi villagers have been resisting mining operations in Gadchiroli that threaten their sacred forests and nature-based livelihoods. 
In March 2023, the Madia-Gond Adivasi community under the banners of ‘Damkondawahi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti’ and ‘Surjagarh Patti Paramparik Gotul Samiti’ initiated anti-mining protests that continued on a daily basis. 
In June 2023, 6 new mines, spanning 4,684 hectares, were proposed and leased to five companies: Omsairam Steels and Alloys Private Limited, JSW Steels Limited, Sunflag Iron and Steel Company Limited, Universal Industrial Equipment and Technical Services Private Limited, and Natural Resources Energy Private Limited. 
These mines fall within boundaries of traditional forest use and livelihoods. The existing and planned mines profoundly disrupt the Madia-Gond way of life that is deeply rooted in nature and livelihoods that are sustained by the forests and rivers. 
In 2007, Lloyds Metals and Energy Private Limited  were given clearance to begin mining for iron ore over an area of 348.09 hectares in Gadchiroli. The time period for mining was extended from 20 years to 50 years. News media have reported on the destructive impacts of the Lloyds mine, including water pollution in nearby villages. 
A poignant image from within these villages is of rivers turning red from mining effluents. Water that was once drinkable can now no longer be used. Contamination in agricultural fields and waterways has raised health concerns in the villages. People have been reported to develop frequent swollen eyes, fever, and body aches as mining activity has commenced. 
A poignant image from within these villages is of rivers turning red from mining effluents
We, the undersigned, stand with the peaceful anti-mining protests in Gadchiroli and the democratic resistance led by Adivasis. We also stand by and support their demand mentioned in a recent fact-finding report:
“The state cannot intimidate us, oppress us, and forcefully displace us, and we demand such violent acts must immediately come to an end".
As environmental and democratic movements and organizations from across India, we demand that the proposed six mines in Surjagarh as well as other proposed mines in the region are immediately scrapped. The approved crushing and processing Lloyd plant and mining lease expansion granted to Lloyds Metals and Energy Private Limited must also be canceled immediately.
We demand that all the cases foisted against the Adivasi protestors be dropped forthwith and their right to democratic protest be upheld.
We also assert that the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) must be fully implemented in the region and there must be no project approvals and work in violation of these laws and the rights of Gram Sabhas in the Schedule V Adivasi areas. 
As the world moves away from fossil fuels and extractive industries, revealing their disastrous implications, it is concerning that various state governments of India are unable to envision a better future that is possibly already here if they listen to the people. We respect and defend the rights of our siblings in the Gadchiroli movement as we understand and share the belief that more mines spell disaster for everyone.
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*Click here for signatories 

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