Don't Mine Us Out of Existence

UPDATE: Apparently the tribes in Orissa have asked James Cameron, the director of record-winning film Avatar for his assistance in stopping Vedanta’s operations.

UK-based company is destroying the environment of indigenous people in Orissa.

Help to save lives in the Indian state of Orissa.

In my first blog post, I wrote about the plight of Adivasis in Orissa.  Well, we’ve done a report that has documented one such case in much more detail.

Dongria Kondh women at a protest meeting, Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, India, 2009

Dongria Kondh women at a protest meeting, Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, India, 2009. Copyright: Amnesty International

Indian authorities have given local communities little or no information about the potentially disastrous impact of a proposed aluminum refinery expansion and mining project to be operated by subsidiaries of UK-based company Vedanta Resources in the eastern state of Orissa.

We document how an aluminum refinery operated by a subsidiary of UK-based FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources in Orissa is causing air and water pollution that threatens the health of local people and their access to clean drinking water.

Adivasi, Dalit, women and other marginalized communities in the remote part of Orissa where the refinery is located have described to us how authorities told them that the refinery would transform the area into a Mumbai or Dubai.

The Orissa State Pollution Control Board (a state government agency) has documented air and water pollution from Vedanta Aluminum refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa. The pollution threatens the health of local people and their access to clean water yet there has been no health monitoring.

Despite these concerns and the environmentally sensitive location of the refinery near a river and villages, the government is considering a proposal for a very large expansion of the refinery. Neither the Indian authorities nor Vedanta have shared information on the extent of pollution and its possible effects with local communities.


Indian Adivasis Can't Crash White House Parties

After nearly two weeks, I continue to be surprised at how much news coverage there is about the party crashers who interrupted the White House state dinner with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised).

But as someone who closely follows human rights in South Asia, I was wondering how the plight of the underprivileged in India might garner even the fraction of attention that the Salahi couple have.

Unfortunately for the case of two activists for indigenous peoples in India trying to earn even a smidgen of that interest for their people, it has ended very tragically. Unlike the White House party crashers’ controversial but peaceful visit, this protest ended in disaster.

Eyewitnesses said that the police opened fire when one of the leaders, Singanna, entered the police station to talk with officials. Another leader, Andrew Nachika, was also shot dead and at least eight other protestors sustained bullet injuries as police and paramilitary forces continued their unprovoked firing at the unarmed and fleeing protestors.

On November 20, Singanna and Andrew Nachika, two leaders of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) were among 80-100 other members of the organization who were peacefully protesting outside a police station in Koraput district in Orissa state.

The protesters were demanding that the police stop harassing the Adivasi communities who have been campaigning for an end to illegal mining in the area. Adivasis are (very roughly) akin to America’s Native American communities. They have lived for centuries in the eastern and central parts of India, including the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.

This unnecessary use of force on Adivasi protestors resulted in at least two deaths. The Orissa state government must investigate and prosecute the police and paramilitaries that were involved in these killings. All state governments must end what is clearly becoming a pattern of harassment of Adivasis throughout India.