Niyamgiri mountain in the state of Orissa, India, is the ancestral home to thousands of one of the world’s most vulnerable tribal people. The Kondh tribal people rely on the mountain as the source of their food, culture and medicines. It is the seat of their god, the supreme deity Niyam Raja. The area is a pristine ecosystem rich in biodiversity, home to endangered animals and plants and water sources travelling hundreds of miles.
ActionAid has been supporting the Kondh in their battle with UK-listed mining giant, Vedanta Resources. The company wants to build an open-pit bauxite (aluminium) mine at the top of Niyamgiri, in the heart of the community.
If the mine were to go ahead it would result in massive deforestation, destruction of the ecosystem and toxic contamination of the water table, endangering fresh water sources for hundreds of thousands of people. The Kondh tribe would be forced to move elsewhere and their unique way of life would be lost forever.
Vedanta has already built a refinery at the base of the mountain, which produces up to 3 million tons of caustic soda waste every year. There has been widespread criticism of Vedanta’s toxic waste management and people living near the refinery have complained that pollution has destroyed crop yields and killed livestock and caused considerable health problems. More than 25,000 tribal members who live around the refinery have already been affected by water and air pollution, according to the Orissa Pollution Control Board.
The Kondh tribe are determined to protect the mountain that is their home and provider. They have held countless demonstrations against the company on the mountain and have been represented at the Supreme Court of India and Vedanta’s AGMs in London.
In August 2010, after 6 years of national and international campaigning, divestment by key Vedanta shareholders and protracted legal challenges, there was some fantastic news: the Indian Government publically refused vital environmental permission for the mine to go ahead. The Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh came out strongly against the mine, criticising the company on several grounds and accusing it of breaking the law.
ActionAid will continue to stand alongside the Kondh to make sure that the Indian Government doesn’t go back on its decision. We believe that companies can play a positive role in development, but not at the expense of people’s livelihoods.
A very big thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign.
photo : ©Claudia Janke/ActionAid