12th Odisha village snubs Vedanta mining plan

Bhubaneswar, Aug 19 (IANS) The process to obtain views of villagers on Vedanta's plan to mine Odisha's Niyamngiri hills was completed Monday with the last of the 12 villages unanimously opposing it, officials and eyewitnesses said.

Like the previous gram sabhas (village councils), residents of Jarpa village in Rayagada district Monday said no to mining, protest leader Siddharth Nayak told IANS.

An official of the state's Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Department said the government would soon inform the central government about the decision of all 12 villages whose opinion had been sought.

Vedanta has set up a one million tonne per annum alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, 600 km from here. However, it could never operate the plant at full capacity due to shortage of bauxite, the key raw material used to produce alumina.

Vedanta had entered into an arrangement with the state government for supply of bauxite through a state agency from nearby Niyamgiri hills, but the move was challenged by anti-displacement groups.

The Supreme Court April 18 asked the state to go to gram sabhas to understand the religious and cultural aspects of tribals in the region.

The apex court's forest bench, headed by Justice Aftab Alam, said the gram sabhas would look into the religious and cultural aspects of the Dongaria Kondh tribals in the region in three months and take a decision.

The state government identified 12 villages to hold the meetings. The first gram sabha was held July 19. Subsequently, meetings were held in other villages in phases.

A total of 403 voters, including 234 women, participated in the gram sabhas and voiced their religious and cultural rights over the hills and against mining, officials said.


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