Victory for a Clean Environment in India

In a victory for human rights, the High Court of the Indian state of Orissa has upheld the Indian government’s 2010 decision to reject UK-based Vedanta Resources’ plans for the six-fold expansion of the Lanjigarh aluminum refinery, finding that the project violated the country’s environmental laws. Vedanta Aluminum had challenged the Ministry of Environment and Forest‘s decision in the High Court in November 2010.

Villager india

A meeting of villagers opposing the Tata Steel project, Jaipur District, Orissa, India, 2008. © Johann Rousselot

Residents of 12 villages who live in the shadow of the massive refinery – mostly Adivasi (indigenous) and Dalit communities who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – have long campaigned against the expansion, arguing it would further pollute their land and water.

The refinery, which has been in operation for four years, fails to meet accepted national and international standards in relation to its environmental, social and human rights impact. The authorities must order an immediate clean-up of the site and monitor the health status of the local communities.

This victory is certainly significant and sends a strong and important message to Vedanta and other corporations who think little about environmental and human rights. Unfortunately, the threat from Vedanta’s red mud pond still looms. Act now to urge the Indian government ensure that Vedanta act to protect the lives and livelihoods of the thousands of families who live near its refinery.

For more about human rights issues in India, please follow Amnesty USA country specialist on Twitter @JamesMutti

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