I often read to my almost four-year old daughter our favorite book– Dr. Suess’ environmental treatise, The Lorax. Unfortunately, this fictional account of environmental destruction is being played out for real in the Indian state of Orissa where Vedanta Corporation is wrecking the environment of the Dongria Kondh people. To take action, click HERE, but you can also read more below.
The story of the Lorax and the Once-ler amazingly parallels that of the Dongria Kondh peoples of Orissa.
There is a kid who explores “the far end of town” an area that has been subjected to some environmental disaster. The area was where the “Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour as it blows.” It was a pretty bad scene. The Once-ler, a faceless creature, lives in the ruins of his big empty factory which was abandoned after all of the Truffula trees were chopped down. The Once-ler then talks about how great things were before in the area, with Truffula trees, “brown barbaloots frisking about in their barbarloot suits” as well as “swomee swans” enjoying the fresh air and the “humming fish” enjoying the clean water of their “rippulous” ponds. But, the Once-ler started to chopping down the trees so as to make “productive” use of the land. The Lorax tried to warn him repeatedly about the disaster that awaits the wondrous area stating that “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” But the [Vedanta Corporation] Once-ler would not listen despite the environmentally related illnesses occurring in the area and kept cutting down trees “just as fast as he please” because “business is business and business must grow regardless of crummies in tummies you know“. Technological innovation such as the Once-ler’s “super axe hacker” could “chop down four trees in one smacker” only led to more efficient destruction of the environment. Eventually, the area was completely destroyed because of the [mining] logging and industrial operations in the area. And, “all that was left ‘neath the smog smuggered sky was a big empty factory, the Lorax and” the Once-ler.
Unlike the area where the Once-ler chopped down the Truffula trees, India supposedly has very tight environmental regulations, in theory. And, it turns out that the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests has been listening and has investigating the claims that we’ve been documenting in the report on mining activites by Vedanta Resources. They confirm that the Dongria Kondh’s concerns are valid and that there have been human rights violations of adivasi (indigenous people) communities and violations of forest laws in relation to the Vedanta’s refinery and planned mining project. (I wrote about this earlier).
MoEF Minister Jairam Ramesh has promised follow-up action on the probe findings. Any such follow-up action must also include full consultation with local communities on the refinery expansion and mining proposal, including setting up of a process to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the Dongria Kondh, and respect their decision.
As Dr. Seuss stated at the end of the book, it is going to take you to help change the world for the better– you can take action here. Let’s keep the pressure on the Government of India so that Vedanta Corporation (or the Once-ler) will not be able to ruin the environment for the people of Orissa.