Vedanta Mine Plan on Sacred Tribal Mountain Halted by Indian Government

Vedanta’s controversial bauxite mine on the Dongria Kondh’s tribal land has been stopped, after four years of protests by local peoples supported by Survival International and a wide range of affinity campaigns, including most recently by EI’s Earth Action Network.

Controversial plans to develop a bauxite mine on sacred tribal land in India [search] have been cancelled by India’s environment ministry. The Dongria Kondh’s – an indigenous tribe who have lived since time immemorial around the mountain Niyamgiri in the Indian state of Orissa – demands have been met, and the area will remain wild, lush and sacred. Multi-national company Vedanta’s existing aluminum refinery in the area had polluted local rivers, damaged crops and disrupted the lives of the local tribe; and will now not be able to expand six-fold. This is a Dongria Kondh victory first and foremost.

The project has been delayed by four years because of the Dongria Kondh’s intense opposition locally – including the brandishing of bows and arrows – as well as from environmental and tribal rights group. Globally, a loosely coordinated campaign sought to persuade multi-national Vedanta’s shareholders and financiers to distance themselves from the company. This is their magnificent victory as well – for Survival International and Amnesty International, various celebrity activists such as Bianca Jagger and Michael Palin, and numerous other loosely affiliated affinity campaigns, including most recently from Ecological Internet working with the Rainforest Information Centre.
“Yet again global people power has come to the aid of small, intact communities battling the ecosystem destroying economic growth machine. The Dongria Kondh’s amazing efforts should be placed in the context of a global people’s power movement to protect and restore ecosystems, and wrest control of land from industrial and speculative capitalism,” asserts Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet’s President.

“We are pleased to have contributed EI’s Earth Action Network’s [1] support – some 200,000 protest emails sent from nearly 100 countries [2] in a matter of weeks. I do not think it accidental that victory was achieved immediately after me and EI’s network, with John Seed and the Rainforest Information Centre, launched our protests. We got exactly what we wanted from this timely, well-organized and locally coordinated cyber protest – Ecological Internet’s specialty!”

******************

The project had been thrown into doubt last week when a government inquiry said that mining would destroy the way of life of the area’s “endangered” and “primitive” people. The four-person committee also accused a local subsidiary of Vedanta of violating forest conservation and environment protection regulations. Because Niyamgiri Mountain is an important spiritual place, it had not thus far suffered the deforestation and degradation experienced by similar areas in India but contains an elephant reserve with Sambar, Leopard, Tiger, Barking Deer, various species of birds and other endangered species of wildlife. With the announcement, the area is free (for now) from the planned Vedenta bauxite mine.

Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister for environment and forests, said today that the government will issue what is termed a show-cause notice and take action against Vedanta. The news sent Vedanta’s shares down almost 6%, wiping almost £300m off the value of the business. “There are very serious violations of environment act and forest right act,” Ramesh told Bloomberg. “There is no emotion, no politics, no prejudice in the decision. It is purely based on a legal approach.” Vedanta, which can appeal against the decision, had wanted to expand its existing refinery in the area, generating a six-fold increase in capacity.

Survival campaigner Dr Jo Woodman said: “This is a victory nobody would have believed possible. The Dongria’s campaign became a litmus test of whether a small, marginalised tribe could stand up to a massive multinational company with an army of lobbyists and PR firms and the ear of government…. Incredibly, the Dongria’s courage and tenacity, allied with the support of many people in India, and Survival’s supporters around the world, have triumphed.”

This is the second time Ecological Internet’s Earth Action Network has recently achieved major conservation successes in India. Last year, also working with John Seed and the Rainforest Information Centre, Ecological Internet was able to single-handedly achieve major Asian elephant migration corridor protections [3].

[1] Earth Action Network’s current alerts are found at http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/alerts and you can subscribe to new alert notifications at: http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/subscribe/ and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ecointernet

[2] Action Alert: UPDATE: India’s Dongria Kondh Tribal Way of Life Threatened by British/International Vedanta Mining – http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=india_mine

[3] Action Alert: Critical Elephant Corridor in India to be Severed – http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=india_elephants