A firm wants to mine bauxite in the pristine Niyamgiri Hills and smelt it in a giant factory next door. Most people know the firm as Vedanta. The firm would never have expected the global furore its practices have caused, including amongst the local Dongria Kondh tribe.
Just 8,000 or so, the Kondhs have turned out to be less malleable than the aluminium firm hoped for. They are insisting on an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) key for clearances, pointing out that the firm never revealed its final EIA report for a mandatory public hearing. They are also asking for an assessment of their cultural loss.
The Kondhs aren’t as far removed from us city-dwellers. Who has not lived in a colony where residents, for example, have fought with the municipality to pick up waste, or the government to stop cutting trees? The Kondhs are doing just that. Refusing to let a Rs 45,000 crore project steal their lands and culture, refusing to let the environment ministry steal their rights to participate in their future and reminding us that the cans we may throw away may have been produced as a result of their annhilation.
Would you increase the number of doctors by giving school children incomprehensive, complicated health projects that their parents google to complete? No? Then why have so many schools forced the most mind-dumbing environment studies projects on their hapless students?
I’ve met several this summer. It’s worrisome that at a time when we need everyone to be an environmentalist, we’re putting off so many young people by frustrating their imaginations. Imagine asking pre-teens to find solutions for air pollution and its impacts. Why can’t we help children think and read from a list of lively books and sites, visit local spaces and come up with their own understanding of the environment?