Public hearing for EIA for the Maliparbat Bauxite Mine disrupted due to massive people protest

Public hearing for EIA for the Maliparbat Bauxite Mine disrupted due to massive people protest

By Bijay Mishra

The public hearing for Environmental Impact Assessment for the Maliparbat Bauxite Mine in Koraput district of M/s Hindalco Industries Ltd for a Production Capacity of 0.6 MTPA over an Mining Lease Area of 268.110 ha has been cancelled due to strong protest and subsequent massive disruption in the meeting after thousands of anti mining agitators of the affected villages break the police cordon at several places and rushed to the meeting place . The government officials and authorities of the mining company immediately left the meeting place at Kankadamba of Semiliguda block without conducting the public hearing .

Police and few supporters of the company failed to stop the entrance of the Villagers from around 18 gram panchayats who have been protesting the mining activities since long . The Public hearing has to be cancelled for massive protest following large scale violence .Angry villagers dismantled the barricades at the meeting venue.

The Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, is protesting against the proposed bauxite mining demanding cancellation of Environmentally Destructive Mining Project in Mali Parbat .Several Adivasi organisations, Civil society ,concerned citizens, activists, environmental and people’s organizations including National Alliance of People’s Movements and JANMAT expressed concern over the decision of Govt. of Odisha to push bauxite mining in the Schedule-V adivasi-belt of Mali Parbat, Koraput Dist. against the consent and interests of the people, especially adivasi and dalit farmers. The Mali Parvat Surakhya Samiti have been resisting the Hindalco bauxite mining project proposal since many years.

Some Company supporters have prevented people from expressing their dissent to the mining proposal at the public hearing, by putting up check gates, road blockades, etc.
The people burned the Vimta Labs (consultant) prepared EIA report, alleging lies and false information.

The villagers claimed that about 44 villages around Mali Parbat shall be affected directly and more than 200 villages shall be affected indirectly. Villagers claim that numerous streams flow from hill or enrich the soil moisture. There are 32 perennial streams and four canals that emerge from this hill.

Nearly 2,500 families living in 44 villages rely on this water for irrigation of their fields and take up vegetable and other cultivation. Mining will significantly affect the streams and soil moisture and thereby devastating a thriving livelihoods option for the local people. Other likely hazards due to the mining include water and soil pollution. Dumping of oil, lubricants and other waste material of the mining area will have huge adverse bearing on water, land and forest resources of the region.

The villagers claimed that the EIA report for the mining project, prepared by VIMTA Laboratory Pvt. Ltd. of Hyderabad, has totally neglected and disregarded impact of mining on the water sources and subsequent consequence on agriculture and horticulture.

While adverse impacts on water resources is likely to be catastrophic and permanent in nature, serious land degradation is likely to be huge too. That aspect has also not been assessed and recorded in the EIA. Soil erosion due to mining and deforestation is already among the highest in Odisha. Koraput already has other bauxite mines, including Deomali. That region is reeling under very serious soil erosion and land degradation. Mining of Mali Parbat will surely increase manifold the rate of soil and land degradation.

This area comes under the catchment area of Upper Kolab Reservoir. Thus, erosion will lead to huge silt deposition in the Kolab reservoir which has already lost a lot of storage capacity due to massive siltation. Such siltation will greatly undermine efficiency of the reservoir in producing electricity and providing irrigation. Even the life span of the dam will be immensely threatened.

Mali Parbat is home to many rare medicinal plants and species like Hada sakada, Patala garuda, Bhuin Penga, Haladi kanda, Kalad Kanda, Anala, Bahada, Harida, Pita kanda (all are local names) etc. Mining will affect these rare medicinal plants. Many rare species and plants like Pitakonda, Taraka konda, Kakudi plant, Charu koli plants are also available in this hill. They are part of local people’s food, nutrition and medicinal eco-system. Mining will have an adverse effect on all these rare plants.

Similarly, the hills are a natural habitat of Bear, Sambar, Kutura, Peacock etc. Mining activities along with increased human ingress, vehicular movement etc will affect the animal habitation.
Not just environmental stakes, people have direct religious and cultural connect with the hills.There is a religious place of the adivasis in the Mali Parbat known as Pakuli Pahar Gumpha (sacred cave). The deity of this religious place is worshiped by the villagers of surrounding villages Aligon, Kumbhiguda, Daleiguda, Rajaniguda, Pakijhola, Mania etc.

Many religions and cultural practices of local people are associated with Pakuli Pahar Gumpha. This old religious place will be destroyed by mining. What makes the issue hazier and more threatening is the mining company’s eagerness to get lot more land that what is required and whose affect have not been properly assessed.

The people urged the Govt. of Odisha to responsibly consider the demands of this two-decades old struggle of adivasis and withdraws the proposals for bauxite mining completely.

Veteran social activist Mr Prafulla Samantray told that “Hindalco goons have indulged in intimidation and prevented people who are opposed to the proposal of mining their sacred Maliparbat Hill from reaching the site of the public hearing . He demanded cancellation of the mining lease of this company .