Tribe wants newly elected politicians to 'keep their word'
Indian mountain people fight court decision to let a UK company mine bauxite on their ancient land
Sunday 17 May 2009
An Indian tribe which has lost its five-year battle to save its sacred home from destruction by a British FTSE-100 mining company earlier this month, only discovered its fate on Friday. The Dongria Kondh have been living for centuries on the remote Niyamgiri Mountain in eastern India, worshipping the hill god Niyam Raja and living off the land. But an Indian Supreme Court ruling means that Vedanta, a mining company owned by the London-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal, can begin mining on the mountain.
Vedanta's subsidiary, Sterlite, has been given permission to begin mining bauxite, the most important aluminium ore, on land considered sacred by the tribe. Previous studies by academics, government bodies and charities have shown that an open-pit mine would destroy the habitat that has been its home for generations, destroy the forest, and cause water sources to dry up, threatening endangered animals and ecosystems.
For the people of Niyamgiri, which is situated deep in the state of Orissa, this represents a devastating blow as they rely on the land for food, culture and medicine. Kumti Majhi, a leader for the Niyamgiri people, said: "We cannot live without our god mountain and the forest, and we will continue our peaceful struggle. It is a life and death battle and the Dongria Kondh people are united on this."
The Kondh's shock at the news that their battle is lost has been compounded by a lack of warning from the government. The tribespeople allege that until the charity ActionAid contacted them on Friday, they had no knowledge of their fate. "It has happened in a very underhand way," said Mr Majhi.
The plight of the people at Niyamgiri has been a cause célèbre among conservationists around the world for nearly half a decade. It seems now that their concern has done little to stop mining in this fragile ecosystem.
"This ruling will mean the complete destruction of the tribal groups – there's no doubt about it", said Babu Mathew, ActionAid's director in India. But he said he still held hopes that political changes following yesterday's election result could spell hope for the future. "The newly elected candidates canvassed on the fact that they would help the tribal people, so we will try and get them to keep their word."
A spokesman for Vedanta said: "This has been a long, democratic process. The Supreme Court has given its permission and identified a number of commitments for us to meet to help the community. We are very happy to go ahead with the project on that basis."
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
People are criticising Fifa World Cup sponsors with corrupt corporate logos
Natalie Portman tells Harvard graduates: 'Accept your lack of knowledge'
British tourists complain impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Fifa corruption live: Sebb Blatter warns 'more bad news may follow' as he clings to power
Skull found in Spain could be the world's first-ever murder victim
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...