Published: Wednesday 31 July 1996

We min(e)d

The article entitled "Sanctuary in peril" ( Down To Earth , Vol 4, No 17), makes several allegations regarding the activities of the Indian Aluminium ( indal ) Company Limited in Radhanagari district and the company's mining lease at Indergunj in Maharashtra. Ms Neena Singh, who had visited the site, had been provided with all the data and information she had sought. In spite of this, we are surprised to find many factual errors and distortions in her article. I would like to draw your attention to some of these.

The Bombay Natural History Society ( bnhs ) has not carried out an environment impact assessment ( eia ) of the area. In fact, we at indal are keen that a proper and professional eia be conducted. You have also alleged that the impact of mining on the sanctuary will be disastrous. Let me tell you that we are getting the environment monitored by an external agency, the Shahu Institute at Kolhapur. At the Durgmanwadi mines we have an environment monitoring cell which regularly checks the air, noise and water pollution levels around the mines to ensure that the area standards are maintained.

We would also like to bring to your attention the fact that Baba Pansare and Shankaran, the director of the department of social welfare in Delhi, paid a surprise visit to the Durgmanwadi mines site on January 24, 1996. After a tour of the mining area and the housing colony of the Dhangar tribals, they expressed their approval of the resettlement efforts made by indal . In fact, Baba Pansare said that "he had no further grievances against indal ".

The writer has also pointed out that the hospital building is all but a health centre. We currently have a health centre operating at the Durgmanwadi mines but part of our future plans are to build a hospital in Radhanagari district.

The article says that the dairy farming scheme is being implemented without the consent of the villagers. The state of Maharashtra is well-known for two dairy cooperatives, Varana and Gokul. Taking into account the cattle rearing culture of the locals and the surplus milk available, it was decided that a dairy cooperative based on the Gokul model would be set up. Hundred and thirty-five farmers have already enrolled themselves as members.

The last point I would like to make is that the Radhanagari Taluka Bachao Samiti ( rtbs ) visited the indal mines on December 22, 1995, along with Baba Pansare and Jagdish Lingaraj to discuss various issues. Thereafter, a committee comprising Sadanand Samvyavar, an indal official, Topkar Patil, representing Ajit Pandit and two to three members of the Dhangar tribe has been formed to look into the issues of land allotment and housing for the tribals.

We are confident that finding another example of eco-friendly mining and community welfare such as ours, would be a difficult task for you. In spite of this, we are still open to suggestions for improving our existing systems and would be happy to meet your representatives and discuss the matter.

Neena Singh replies
S Choudhuri seems to have missed the basic point of the article on Radhanagari which was definitely not to question the socio-economic legitimacy of mining in the country, an altogether different debate. The point being made was to emphasise the need to maintain the sanctity of such areas which are of immense biological diversity. No doubt indal is taking environment-friendly measures, but the truth is that these can only reduce the impact of mining and not eliminate it totally.

On one hand you dismiss the existence of the preliminary findings of the

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