Bauxite Mining Project in Orissa – In trouble!

Rahul Gandhi’s visit to address the tribal ‘vote banks’ in the Niyamgiri hills, Kalahandi, Orissa – brings news that is more political than developmental. I am not really in praise of him – for his efforts to stall the on-going project of bauxite mining, in order to win back the ‘tribal’ votes that were lost to BJP in the last elections.

Anil Agarwal promoted Vedanta group, having multi billion dollar turnover, wants to mine for bauxite near the hills to produce aluminium. Orissa is one of the mineral rich states but is poverty ridden due to poor development of the state.There are not many FDI projects in the state except for Lakshmi Mittal’s proposed steel plant and now Vedanta’s interest in bauxite mining. The state is backward with low education, low per capita and also, job opportunities are not many.This ‘story’ is about a powerful company ‘Vedanta group’ breaking the law – environmental issues and people’s interest. But, it is equally about a ‘development puzzle’ in which the richest lands of India are occupied by the poorest people (actually, these tribals constitute only 10% of the voting population and are probably illegal habitation too).

The N.C.Saxena committee – has indicted the mining conglomerate Vedanta on three counts of breaking the environmental laws –
“One, it took over and fenced village forests without permission. Two, the company was sourcing its raw material, bauxite, from ‘illegal mines’ when the environmental clearance it got was conditional to such a course not being taken. The third charge, supported by papers of the ministry’s officers and the state government’s pollution control board, is the most damning. The company started expanding its refinery capacity from 1 million tonnes per annum (tpa) to 6 million tpa without any permission in hand”

My concern is – when will the state government be efficient and why were all this above listed violations not checked earlier?

We cannot overlook the fact that Orissa definitely needs more developmental projects to take advantage of its rich natural resources. Another point to be considered, the draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act – clearly indicates ‘profit sharing’ with the affected habitation. This can be worked out and implemented so that it will involve people too to ensure continuation of the ‘mining’ project. Environmental as well as people’s interest are important – but, there is no point in stopping the project totally.

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