The Mali Hill in Koraput is the source of several streams, home to medicinal trees and is an elephant corridor, protestors say
Adivasis shouted slogans and ransacked the venue of a public meeting called to discuss a proposed bauxite mining project in Odisha’s Koraput district September 22, 2021.
Environmental activists, social workers and others present at the venue in Kankadaamba village in the tribal-dominated Similiguda block of Koraput also opposed the project.
They expressed concerns about the threats to the Mali hillock and forest, which is the site of the project by Hindalco Industries Ltd (HINDALCO).
Members of the Mali Parbat Suraksha Samiti (Save Mali Hill Committee) staged a protest, holding placards which demanded that officials cancel the mining at the site.
The Mali and forest area are home to large numbers of Kondha, Paraja and Gadaba tribespeople, who are spread across 44 villages.
Bijay Khil, the president of the Save Mali Hill Committee, said:
We urged officials of the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and the district administration to protect the hillock and forest by not allowing any company to mine bauxite from the Mali hill.
Khil added that his group was determined to protect and preserve the hill. Bauxite mining would harm to the area’s ecosystem, he said.
“Giving permission to mine bauxite in the forest area is illegal and unethical. We will oppose the proposed mining project tooth and nail,” Prafulla Samantara, the president of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, said.
He added that Mali hill was the source of 36 perennial streams which fed the waters of the Kolab river. Tribals irrigated their land with the water of the Kolab.
The river would dry up if the government allowed the company to mine the Mali hill, Samantara said.
He noted that the hill was also the home of many valuable medicinal trees. It was also an important elephant corridor.
“Mining will disturb groundwater, air and soil in the vicinity. We will not allow this to happen in our area at any cost. If the OSPCB gives an NoC to the company for mining, we will intensify our agitation,” Samantara said.
Deben Kr Pradhan, the additional district magistrate of Koraput and other officials were present at the public hearing to take stock of the situation.
“The agitators exchanged heated words with the government and company authorities. This led to commotion and tension at the public hearing. They ransacked the venue and damaged the stage. We postponed the meeting due to the disturbances,” Pradhan said.
He added that his team had noted the objections of the local tribals and would relay them to the government.
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