Villagers form human chain against mining in Orissa


Bhubaneswar : Thousands of people, including tribal men and women, formed a human chain Tuesday to protect a sacred hill from mining in Orissa’s Kalahandi district.

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The protestors, who were armed with bows and arrows, formed a 17-km-long human chain around the Niyamgiri hills and shouted slogans against British firm Vedanta which plans to mine bauxite. They said they were determined to protect the hills at any cost.

“We formed the human chain from Asurpada village to Ijurupa covering Vedanta plant site as well as seven villages,” a leader of the protest Bhakta Charan Das told IANS on telephone.

Das, also a senior congress leader, said a meeting was held after the protest.

“The protest was peaceful. It did not affect the plant,” a Vedanta official from the plant site told IANS.

Vedanta Alumina, part of the Vedanta Resources (Sterlite) Group, has built a $800 million alumina refinery project at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi, about 600 km from here. The refinery is on a trial run and the company wants to mine the Niyamgiri hill to feed its plant.

The hill in Lanjigarh block is inhabited by Dongaria Kondhs, a tribal group. The group claims that mining would pollute the rivers, destroy jungles, dry up streams and displace them from their land and culture.

“Hills are our God. We cannot live without them. We are not going to allow the company to mine the hills,” said Jitu Jakaka, a tribal leader.

The Supreme Court allowed Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri Hill in August last year despite opposition from tribal and anti-displacement groups.

“Vedanta is committed to the sustainable development of the locality. We are committed to make the life better in the areas,” head of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery and mining project Mukesh Kumar said.

“It is a rumour spread around that the mining project will dry up streams. It is also a rumour that the mining project will displace people. The mining will help recharge ground water and will not displace anybody,” Kumar told IANS.