Forests

Vedanta bauxite mine: Odisha villagers raise concerns at public hearing, accuse company of spreading misinformation

Villagers allege mining company to share fake information and misleading tribals

 
By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Friday 01 December 2023
Photo for representation: iStock__

Local villagers of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Odisha have expressed fear of environmental degradation and loss of livelihood due to the proposed Sijimali Bauxite Mines by Vendanta Ltd.

The concerns were raised by the locals during the public hearing for the proposed mining area of 1,549 hectares on October 18, 2023. The minutes of the hearing were issued recently.

The public hearing was conducted in the presence of 1,500 villagers and officials from the State Pollution Control Board, Rayagada, additional district magistrate and representative of Sijimali Bauxite Mine.

Kartika Naik from Banteji village in Rayagada district alleged that Vedanta had mentioned fake facts on streams and forests that would be impacted with the project. He shared that the project would impact 73 types of trees, 21 varieties of grasses, 20 varieties of mammals and number of reptiles, birds and amphibians. 

Naik said a large variety of flora and fauna will be endangered due to the proposed mining activity in the said project areas. He also shared the names of various types of water streams and nallas in the project area.

He stressed that local tribal people fully depend on the Sijimali and Karlapat forest for their livelihood and fuelwood for cooking, which will be hampered drastically. “The mining project will also impact the surrounding area of about 50 villages by deteriorating and degrading the environment affecting thousands of tribals,” he said. 

Naik pointed out that the Vedanta report which mentions that about 18 villages will be affected is wrong and demanded correction for the same. 

The villagers also raised the issue that such projects relating to reduced livelihoods, deteriorating agricultural soil and outcome has already forced migration to states like Kerala of residents from Tikiri due to mining company Utkal Alumina Ltd.

Another villager Namita Majhi from Kantamal village stated that mining pollutes and damages the air due to dust and vehicle movement. She said the mining activities will require freshwater of about 725,000 litres a day and thereby result in water scarcity in the village for agricultural vegetation. 

Munidei Majhi from the same village added that the mining activity will also cause water pollution and create health issues among villagers.

The villagers highlighted that mining activities will also cause respiratory issues, especially among pregnant women. They claimed that there are about 181 mines in Odisha and mining activities are increasingly contributing to air pollution and environmental hazards. 

Padman Naik, a resident of Banteji, said contractor Vedanta is trying to mislead the local tribals and others reasserted that they would never permit the proposed mining in the area. 

Tanmaya Kumar Darwan, additional district magistrate of Kalahandi, asked the villagers to share the remarks with the environment ministry for further action. 

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