House panel urges Andhra government to cancel bauxite mining plans

'Mining will harm state’s interests while immensely benefiting private companies'

By M Suchitra
Published: Thursday 10 January 2013

The Petitions Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Andhra Pradesh has recommended scrapping of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for bauxite mining in Visakhapatnam district. The MoU was signed between the government and Jindal South West Holdings Limited (JSWHL) and the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah (ANRAK).

The panel headed by the deputy speaker Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka held detailed discussions on the MoU in Hyderabad on January 8. The discussions were in response to a petition filed by former legislator  Ramesh through Telugu Desam MLA A Revanth Reddy. It has unanimously concluded that the proposed bauxite mining would harm the interests of the state while immensely benefitting the two private companies.

Andhra Pradesh holds reserves of 600 million tonnes of bauxite, which, according to the Geological Survey of India, is 21 per cent of the country’s total reserve. More than 90 per cent of this reserve is concentrated in six deposits in the Eastern Ghats of Visakhapatnam. The deposits fall in the Agency area (tribal area) which is part of reserve forests and has a rich biodiversity.

The MoUs were signed during the tenure of late chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. The MoU with Jindal was signed in 2005 and with ANRAK in 2007. Tribal and civil society organizations and opposition political parties have been resisting the mining plans since then. So have environments who have been pressing to declare the region a biosphere reserve.
But the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is in favour of mining. The ministry's high-level committee, set up to study the socio-economic and ecological impacts of the proposed bauxite mining, submitted its final report in May last year, favouring mining. The committee concluded mining would not have any significant negative impact on the ecology.

The Union tribal affairs ministry is also opposing mining in the area.  Its minister Kishore Chandra Deo wrote a letter to Andhra Pradesh governor E S L Narasimhan in March last year, requesting him to invoke the governor’s special powers and cancel the MoUs. He had repeatedly pointed out that the entire belt of Schedule Five areas (Agency areas) in Visakhapatnam district, has become a hotbed of Maoists’ activities because of the proposed mining plans. He had also pointed out that the mining projects violate the Constitutional rights of the tribal communities living in Schedule Five areas and the state and Central laws that ensure protection of their land and livelihood. The proposed plans also violate landmark rulings of the Supreme Court. The governor referred the matter to the state government. But nothing came out of it.

The union minister had also sent a communication to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy, asking him to cancel the MoUs. But the government is continuing with its “wait and watch” stance.

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