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

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory