Saturday, May 30, 2009

Niyamgiri and Dongarias on The Guardian, UK

The Guardian covers the Niyamgiri story with a nice video on its website. Please see


Industrialisation and Mining Update, Orissa for March-April 2009

Industrialisation and Mining Update, Orissa for March-April 2009
Please find the latest Industrialisation and Mining Update, Orissa for March-April 2009.  
This issue contains an editorial on river pollution in Orissa and a short status of mineral 
deposits and exploitation in Orissa. It also contains the information of grant of forest and
environmental clearances in the last two months.



Friday, May 15, 2009

Shaheed (Martyrs)

"Shaheed" A small film on the Monthly Video Magazine Madhyantara

Samadrusti's monthly magazine Madhyantara has been made available on youtube and includes this interesting documentary film on the struggles around displacement. 

A number of other videos from Samadrusti are now available for viewing at

These include the following videos 

Ashen Life (MADHYANTARA 1)

Why life in India's steel hub Kalinga Nagar is turning grey...

Package Podi (MADHYANTARA 1)

Villagers in Jagatsingpur, Orissa invent a new way to light the evening lamp..

and many others



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Farce of Public Hearings for Environmental Assessment

Public Hearing or Public Farce
Those NROs and wellwishers of Orissa who imagine "development" of Orissa through extractive industrialisation should have attended the public hearing for environmental clearance forexpansion of the Lanjigarh refinery of Vedanta. They might have had the first hand opportunity of experiencing the farce of "environmental regulation" in our dear state. 

Vedanta is already operating an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh. In various reports of OSPCB and in petitions and complaints filed by local people, it becomes clear that this refinery has created environmental havoc in the area, polluting Vamshadhara river and making life extremely difficult for local people. The picture on the left shows toxic water and ash being dumped into Vamshadhara river from the factory. The pollution has caused sickness amongst local people and death of cattle. People who take bath in the river develop strange skin infections. Smoke and noise from the refinery pervades the area.

Now Vedanta wants to expand the refinery to 6 million tonnes, a fourfold increase in size. The public hearing was called for getting local people's opinions about the proposed expansion- this is a requirement under law for environmental clearance.

We have managed to get hold of the Official proceedings of this public hearing. It concludes by saying "The overall opinion of the public about the project was favorable provided the proponent takes care of their issues."

However, when one examines even the official proceedings in details, it becomes clear that almost everyone present opposed Vedanta's refinery project. Please find the proceedings copy here 

The most eloquent denunciation was by Lado Majhi, a Dongaria Kondh, who even in the truncated version presented in the official proceedings said that Donagrias will never allow Niyamgiri mountain to be mined. You can find his speech at the Public hearing with english subtitles at

Others pointed out the pollution and difficulties caused by the alumina plant. Please read the proceedings to appreciate the anger and angst that has been caused by Vedanta's action. The 27th speaker, Giridhar Patra, mentioned some of the local goons who have been supporting Vedanta by name, and that led to a fracas where these goons, in full view of the administration officials, literally dragged Mr. Patra off the stage. The public hearing couldn't be completed due to this disturbance - however the Chairperson of the hearing deemed the public hearing as concluded. Please see the video of Mr. Patra being removed from the stage at 

Thus we have strong opposition to the project, a public hearing "concluded" beacuse of disturbance, use of local goons to intimidate speakers - and yet the final result - overall opinion of the people was favorable for the project. In case this was the official outcome of the public hearing, then why hold it at all. Why the farce?

My NRO friends, who talk about democracy and development, need to see this to understand how democracy is being subverted by certain "type of development".



BBC covers Orissa's iron ore exports

By Shilpa Kannan 
Business reporter, BBC News India Business Report, Paradip port

Iron ore being stored in Orissa
Iron ore is now Orissa's main export

A thick haze clouds the horizon as rich red dust is poured down.

As more of the fine granules of iron ore arrive on loud, rumbling conveyor belts, the loading machine scoops up large quantities to drop into the open hatch of the waiting ship. This is like gold in these parts.

This may look like any other busy sea dock in India. But on India's iron ore rich eastern coast, Paradip port is a vital link to global markets.

Every month, millions of tonnes of iron ore are exported from here - bringing in much-needed cash and turning the region into a vibrant commercial hub.

The question is whether in one of India's poorest regions, some people are being left behind.

Chinese connection

The Paradip port is a gateway into India's source of mineral wealth, spread across the three eastern states of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

 While Orissa has managed to tap into its location advantage and natural resources - it hasn't included the people who need it most 
Santosh K Mehrotra, government planning commission

Nearly 80-90% of India's iron ore is exported to China, and this accounts for at least 80 million tonnes of cargo every year. The bulk of this goes through Paradip.

So despite the global economic slowdown, the port has handled all-time record traffic this year.

The port's chairman, K Raghuramaiah says this is mainly due to the location advantage the port enjoys. Being so close to China and the rest of East Asia gives them access to some of the best global markets, he says.

"We are forecasting much more cargo coming our way, so the port's capacity to handle cargo needs to increase," he adds.

"The cargo traffic here has doubled in the past six years. Dredging operations are already taking place to deepen the port and we also plan to add more berths to increase their capacity.

"Since the demand is going up, and we have the ideal infrastructure in place to cater to it - we hope to handle 100 million tonnes of cargo by 2016. We are getting ready for that."


Monday, May 11, 2009

The lament of Niyamraja

First of all, I want to apologize for being off the web for almost a month. 

I am so glad that I found the "Lament of Niyamraja" on the web. Thank you Surya.

This is one of the most moving songs I have ever come across. Please see this. The song tells the story of Niyamraja, Niyamgiri and the impending sense of loss of Niyamgiri due to mining. The brilliant bard is Dambu Praska, a dongaria kondh.

Translation of some of the words of the song:

"Niyamraja was the youngest; he ruled the mountains and the streams'
He had to go through a test first, no one else knows this story....

No one knows this story
I will sing,
I will sing why the outsiders must spare our land...

Niyamraja is crying today,
Th hills will turn into mud,
The rocks will crumble and everyone will die...

Will there be any rivers left if there are no streams,
Will there be any streams left if there are no hills....

How will everyone come to know of Niyamraja's miracle,
If Niyamgiri will not be there
I will sing, I will sing...

What will we do without the fruits, grains and buffaloes,
What will we do without Niyamgiri...

What will the animals do without the big forests,
What will we do without the plants that save lives."