Campaign of the Month: Dongria Kondh against Vedanta mining
To be a Dongria Kondh is to live in the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa state, India - they do not live anywhere else. Yet Vedanta Resources is determined to mine their sacred mountain's rich seam of bauxite (aluminium ore). The Dongria and other local Kondh people are resisting Vedanta and are determined to save Niyamgiri from becoming an industrial wasteland. Other Kondh groups are already suffering due to a bauxite refinery, built and operated by Vedanta, at the base of the Niyamgiri Hills. The Niyamgiri Hills are home to the more than 8,000 Dongria Kondh, whose lifestyle and religion have helped nurture the area’s dense forests and unusually rich wildlife. The Dongria farm the hill slopes, grow crops in among the forest, and gather wild fruit, flowers and leaves for sale. They call themselves Jharnia, meaning ‘protector of streams’, because they protect their sacred mountain and the life-giving rivers that rise within its thick forests. Vedanta’s open pit mine would destroy the forests, disrupt the rivers and spell the end for the Dongria Kondh as a distinct people. At the centre of the struggle is the Dongria’s sacred mountain, the ‘mountain of law’. The Dongrias worship the top of the mountain as the seat of their god and protect the forests there. Vedanta Resources wants to mine the bauxite from the top of the same mountain. The Dongria Kondh would lose their livelihood, their identity and the sanctity of their most religious site. Other Kondh groups are already suffering due to a bauxite refinery, built and operated by Vedanta, at the base of the Niyamgiri Hills. Villagers who have been removed from their homes for the refinery have suffered threats and intimidation. They have lost both their land and their means of supporting themselves. They are also suffering from health problems due to pollution from the refinery, which they blame for skin problems, livestock diseases and crop damage. The Orissa government’s pollution control board has ruled that chemical emissions from the refinery are ‘alarming’ and ‘continuous’. Dongria's actions Thousands of people rallied on October 5 2009 against billionaire Anil Agarwal’s mining company, Vedanta Resources, which wants to mine a sacred mountain in India for aluminium ore. The event marked the end of a week-long march around the villages of the Niyamgiri mountains in Orissa. This is just one of the many actions (http://wri-irg.org/node/6444) Dongria people have taken against Vedanta. The demonstration brought the town of Muniguda to a virtual standstill, shutting down the main road for several hours. The crowd of over 3,000 protestors – comprising members of the Dongria Kondh tribe and other local communities – had a unified message for Vedanta: leave our forests, streams and sacred mountain alone. One of the organizers of the rally, Balachandra Sarangi, said, ‘The Mahayudh [great war] against Vedanta has started- the people have united against Vedanta to oust it and never to allow mining of Niyamgiri.’ ‘GUILTY’: UK government blasts Vedanta in unprecedented attack 12 October The UK government on October the 12, 2009, blasted FTSE-100 company Vedanta Resources over its treatment of the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India. The damning verdict came after a nine month investigation into a complaint submitted by Survival International against Vedanta’s proposed bauxite mine on the Dongria Kondh’s sacred mountain. The complaint, upheld by the government, was brought under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises – the key principles for ethical corporate behaviour. In an unprecedented attack on a major British company, the government ruled that Vedanta, ‘did not respect the rights of the Dongria Kondh’; ‘did not consider the impact of the construction of the mine on the [tribe’s] rights’; and ‘failed to put in place an adequate and timely consultation mechanism’. Devastatingly, it concluded, ‘A change in the company’s behaviour’ is ‘essential’. Astonishingly, despite repeated requests from the UK government, the company ‘failed to provide any evidence during the examination’. This is the only time a company has refused to participate in an OECD investigation. Act now to help the Dongria Kondh
- Write to India’s Minister of Environment and Forests asking him to safeguard the Dongria Kondh’s rights.
- Donate to the Dongria Kondh campaign (and other Survival campaigns).
- Write to your MP or MEP (UK) or Senators and members of Congress (US).
- Write to your local Indian high commission or embassy.
- If you want to get more involved, contact Survival
For more information:
- On the connection between bauxite mining and the military industrial complex: http://wri-irg.org/node/8639