Thousands of miles from Goa, in Orissa’s Kalahandi district, the Dongaria Kondh tribals are fighting to keep their sacred Niyamgiri hills away from the prying eyes of UK-based Vedanta Resources Plc. The company wants to mine the bauxite-rich region and has set up a refinery at Lanjigarh.
On Friday, the Supreme Court barred the company from mining at Niyamgiri hills, but said if the state wants to go ahead, it will have to form a special purpose vehicle which would include the Orissa Mining Corporation and Sterlite — Vedanta’s Indian arm.
“We are yet to see the final order. We are happy about the bar on mining but as far as the SPV is concerned, we think the court is trying to micro-manage things,” said R. Sreedhar, one of the petitioners.
After the order, P.V. Krishnan, head of business development at Vedanta said: “The court said after taking into account the need for sustainable development and balancing all aspects, including the livelihood of the people in Kalahandi, it would like the project to proceed… We will go by the judgment and as a responsible company we will ensure social and economic uplift of the people of the region.”
The company has been facing protests from the beginning of the project in 2002. This region is one of the few in the state that still has primary forest cover of about 90 per cent. The tribals say mining would affect at least 35 waterfalls and two rivers. “If they displace us, then it will lead to a bloodbath in western Orissa,” Jitu Jakeseka, a tribal, told a news agency.