Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Movie Highlights Dongria Kondh Tribes Struggle Against Vedanta Resources

Survival International’s new short film, ‘Mine’, tells the story of the remote Dongria Kondh tribe’s struggle to protect the mountain they worship as a God.

London-based mining company Vedanta Resources plans a vast open-cast bauxite mine in India’s Niyamgiri hills, and the Dongria Kondh know that means the destruction of their forests, their way of life, and their mountain God.

The film is narrated by Indian-born actress Joanna Lumley and features music by Skin.











The following quotes were issued by Vedanta Resources in defence of their decision to construct a mine on the Dongria Kondh’s sacred mountain.

‘The process of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri has been studied in depth by expert agencies and conclusions are that during and post mining, there is in fact an improvement in the overall forest cover and water table.’ Vedanta Resources letter to Survival, 2008

‘We firmly believe that, as enlightened and privileged human beings, we should not try to keep the tribal and other backward people in a primitive, uncared-and-unprovided-for socio-economic environment. We have a strong obligation to provide them with education, health care and sustainable livelihood opportunities so that they move forward with the rest of the world in an all inclusive growth path.’ Vedanta Resources letter to Survival, 2008
Dongria Indigenous People of India
‘There is no question of any placement of any person or persons. The Dongria Kondh tribe does not reside in this area.’ Vedanta Resources letter to Survival, 2008

‘We are used to the Indian government here. But the Vedanta government has come and devastated so many people. They won’t let us live in peace. They want to take these rocks from the mountain. But if they take away these rocks, how will we survive? Because of these the rain comes. The winter comes, the wind blows, the mountain brings all the water. If they take away these rocks, we’ll all die. We’ll lose our soul. Niyamgiri is our soul.’ Sikaka Lodu, Dongria Kondh man, November 2008

‘You should go to Lanjigarh and find out how the refinery came to be there. Life is so hard there. Now that people there have realised what is happening they are speaking out against it. Initially they welcomed the company but now they realise their mistake because they live like dogs. Now they realise they’ve lost their land and their homes forever. Vedanta has stolen everything from them. Go to Lanjigarh and see it for yourself.’ Sikaka Lodu, Dongria Kondh man, November 2008

‘Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters, did you hear everything? We need people from outside to stand with us. Then we have to fight. Then we can survive. We can save our land. And we can be in charge of our territory.’ Pidikaka Bari, Dongria Kondh man, November 2008

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dongria Kondh Tribe appreciates Vedanta's Efforts
“Vedanta Aluminium Limited provides medical treatment to 382 Diarrhea affected people, mainly Dongria Kondh tribals in Kurli Gram Panchayat of Bissamkatak, Orissa, India”.

“Vedanta is the first and only organization to stand with us during this time of difficulties,” said Ramesh Wadeka, a member of Dongria Kondh Tribal Community Kurli Village.

Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh, District Kalahandi, comes forward and provides instant medical care to help the diarrhea and cholera affected people,mostly Dongria Kondhs in Kurli Gram Panchayat in Bissamkatak Block of Rayagada District (Orissa, India). The epidemic started on March 8, 2009 has affected all the families in Kurli, Khambesi, and Mundbahali under this Gram Panchayat. Soon after getting information regarding outbreak of the epidemic Vedanta Aluminium sent its mobile medical unit to the spot and provided immediate medical treatment. Serious patients were admitted at the nearest Christian Hospital, Bissamkatak by this Aluminium producer. By end of March third week the Company had provided comprehensive medical treatment support to 382 persons from these villages at Christian Hospital, Bissamkatak. The company provided medicine, food and other necessary items for treatment of epidemic affected villagers. “Vedanta is the first and only organization to stand with us during this time of difficulties,” said Ramesh Wadeka, a member of Dongria Kondh Tribal Community Kurli Village.

The Company also organized a mega-health camp at Kurli on March 10, 2009 to provide treatment to the people, mostly Dongria Kondhs. In this Camp, more than 400 patients availed health services. The company provided free medicine and medical consultation. “We got primary treatment and medicines from the camp,” said Sundara Wadeka of Khambesi Village.

“Health of people around our plant is highly important for us. As a responsible corporate citizen, it is our duty to provide health care support in advent of any kind of epidemic,” said Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh.

Besides health, the company has also initiated projects to provide improved livelihood to the Dongria Kondhs, especially women. About 60 women in Kurli and Khambesi villages have come forward to undertake micro enterprises like spice making and leaf plate making, supported by Vedanta Resources. “30 women shall be engaged in spice making and another 30 will be making leaf plate,” added Dr. Mukesh.

The efforts of Vedanta Resources are highly appreciated by Dongria Kondh Community. The tribal members are confident that their lives shall be better than before, after the association with Vedanta Aluminium Limited.

Pradeep Wadeka another tribal from the area said, “We have seen the Company’s development activities at Lanjigarh and we hope the Company shall also take similar activities in improving our roads, health, education and livelihood.”

Peter N. Jones said...

Thank you for providing this information. Obviously Vedanta Resources has attempted to do some community remediation. I can't judge for certain as to how these were received by the Dongria Kondh as there are no source associated with the quotes, but hopefully this positive association will continue.

Not all companies have negative impacts on indigenous peoples. For example, the article here lists several examples of positive collaboration efforts between large corporations and Native American Indians.

Thanks again for sharing; obviously the situation is very complex.

will said...

‘You should go to Lanjigarh and find out how the refinery came to be there. Life is so hard there. Now that people there have realised what is happening they are speaking out against it. Initially they welcomed the company but now they realise their mistake because they live like dogs. Now they realise they’ve lost their land and their homes forever. Vedanta has stolen everything from them. Go to Lanjigarh and see it for yourself.’ Sikaka Lodu, Dongria Kondh man, November 2008

will said...

Please don't be taken in by Vedanta's spin!

‘You should go to Lanjigarh and find out how the refinery came to be there. Life is so hard there. Now that people there have realised what is happening they are speaking out against it. Initially they welcomed the company but now they realise their mistake because they live like dogs. Now they realise they’ve lost their land and their homes forever. Vedanta has stolen everything from them. Go to Lanjigarh and see it for yourself.’ Sikaka Lodu, Dongria Kondh man, November 2008

I cannot anywhere find a ringing endorsement of Vedanta's practices, except from Vedanta's own source e.g the anonymous quote above. And even if they are really serious about providing compensation, is it really worth the Dongria losing their sacred mountain and the degradation of the Niyamgiri hills?

---- ---- ----

Quotes:

The advisory committee of India’s Supreme Court has stated that the way in which Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery secured environmental clearance ‘smacks of undue favour/leniency’.

This month, Norway said that it had dropped Vedanta from its $350 billion (£170 billion) sovereign wealth fund for ethical reasons, blaming the company for environmental damage and human rights violations in India.

Norway’s Council on Ethics details how Vedanta and Mr Agarwal have been accused of ‘corruption, fraud, forgery, manipulation of share prices, and insider trading.’

In a further setback for the company, police in the state of Andhra Pradesh are investigating allegations of fraud against Vedanta subsidiary Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, its chairman Anil Agarwal, his brother Navin Agarwal and seven other directors. Anil Agarwal is also the chairman of parent company Vedanta Resources, and owns most of its shares. The inquiry centres on allegations that Vedanta Aluminium cashed a $12 million bank guarantee provided for the construction of a workers’ township.

Peter N. Jones said...

Thanks Will for posting this information. Obviously Vedanta has a complex history of development in India and other countries - not all good. But I agree, one needs to go there and ask the people themselves what they think. This is why I believe the new movie from Survival International is an important one, as it highlights this situation and provides a good context for understanding the dynamics taking place.

himansu said...

I am a student of tribal lifestyle. knowing the tribes, it is hard to believe that the Dongria Kandh tribals (or for that matter any tribal)will be happily tradeoff the most sacred mountain for them(Niyamgiri), which they consider as God, for some material benefits with which they are not so accointed with. But then, propaganda has its own power and historically the powerful have made better use of this instrument.Those who have seen the ground reality have somewhat different account to share.

Peter N. Jones said...

I agree Himansu, it is absurd to think that the Dongria would willing allow their sacred mountain to be mined. To stay on top of other indigenous and tribal issues you might want to subscribe to the new site for daily updates.

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