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Archive for August 2008

Heavy metal: Down to Earth Magazine

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In this ruling, the Bench had said that starting from April 2007, five per cent of the annual profit before tax and interest or Rs 10 crore, whichever was higher, would be earmarked for tribal area development. And this money would be handled by spv. The accounts of the body would to be prepared by the auditors of omc and be audited by Orissa’s Auditor General.

The Supreme Court bench however did not explicitly state the mechanism of calculating the five per cent profit. Another point which was raised at the July hearing too remains unclear—as to whether the profit calculation would be on just the mine’s profits or include the refinery’s profit.

The rehabilitation package mentioned in the November 2007 ruling was accepted by Sterlite India. The company will have to shell out a one-time payment of Rs 12 crore for tribal development, Rs 55 crore for net present value of forest, Rs 50.53 crore for wildlife management in the Niyamgiri hills.

POSCO matters
In the case of posco, the court was to have a detailed hearing on August 8 on the cec’s November 2007 report. There were however no arguments heard, instead the judgment was given, granting posco the forest clearance it needed. The cec report assessed the forest clearance granted to posco by the forest advisory committee (fac) of the ministry of environment and forests (moef).

The report had noted that the diversion of forest land for the project should be considered in total, instead of in a piecemeal fashion for each part of the project such as the mine, the refinery and the captive port. cec had recommended that an independent expert committee assess the impact of cutting such a large number of trees and suggest mitigation measures.

The bench has granted the forest clearance for the project. Since posco has already obtained the essential environmental clearance from the moef, this was the last hurdle, which too has been crossed. The go ahead has evoked mixed reactions in the state. While company and government officials appear distinctly happy with the development, the people in the project area, though divided into camps, are in no mood to let the work of land acquisition proceed unless their demands are met.

While posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (ppss) leader, Abhay Sahu made it clear that the verdict will have no impact on the agitation against the company which will not be allowed to acquire even an inch of land, even the leader of the United Action Committee (uac) formed by the anti-ppss groups, made it clear that they won’t allow land acquisition unless their demands were met.

uac member and sarpanch of Gadkujang panchayat, Nakul Sahu said ever since the land survey conducted by the government in February-March this year, there has been no talk between the people affected by the project and the government and the company. “Now that they will be going for land acquisition at full throttle, we want our main demands—job for one member of each project affected family by the project and compensation at the rate of Rs 1.5 lakh per acre (0.4 ha) for the forestland encroached by people—to be met. If they don’t agree to this we will not allow land acquisition and the project to come up.There will be agitation against the company,” said the sarpanch.

Tamil Pradhan, another uac member said that Supreme Court verdict had in a way opened a fresh channel for negotiation between the people and the company but posco must know that people were not going back on the demands for compensation and jobs for all the project affected families numbering around 4000. “This must happen before the company starts acquiring land. If they don’t agree, we will stop them from acquiring land through democratic means with the consent of the people,” said the leader.

ppss chief Abhay Sahu sounded much more belligerent. “The Supreme Court judgement only relates to the procedural problems that the government and the company were facing in land acquisition since forest land was also involved.

But this is not going to have any bearing on the people’s resolve not to concede even an inch of forest land for the project.

The government, by promising land to the company, has already exhausted its options but people have not,” said Sahu. Asked whether the agitation could turn violent if attempt was made to acquire land against people’s wishes, the ppss chief said, “it all depends on how the government handles the situation.”

posco sources said the company was pleased with the decision of the Supreme Court as this was a vital clearance which would facilitate the progress of the project.

“Now with the decision of the Supreme Court the work on land acquisition can be expedited,” they said adding that posco wanted to develop the greenfield project with the support of the people, specially the local community in Jagatsinghpur.


Written by janjagriti

August 25, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Posted in News

A double disgrace that shames all India

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Published Date: 11-08-2008
Type: Report
Source: London Calling
Source Date: 10-08-2008
Last Friday, India’s highest judicial authority delivered a double whammy to hundreds of thousands of tribal people, poor farmers, human rights campaigners, environmentalists – and those who value the law.
The so-called “Green” bench of the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead not only to Vedanta Resources’s bauxite mine plan on Orissa’s Nyamgiri Hills; it also waved through South Korean steel-maker Posco’s own massive project in the same state.
The announcements were hardly surprising, though they still had the power to shock. It seemed as if the court were determined to display its pro-industry credentials on both sleeves – perhaps (even more cynically), to divide the opposition by throwing it two challenges at once.And challenges there will be, though legal recourses now seem heavily circumscribed.
We have only to recall the huge resistance generated over the last three years to attempts at siting  unacceptable industrial plants in the heart of indigenous and rural communities –  at Kalinganagar, Nandigram and  Singur.In giving its green light for Nyamgiri the court made no pretence (as it did last November) of  endorsing an Indian, rather than British firm. Then, it condemned Vedanta’s record, citing the Norwegian Pension fund’s disinvestment from theLondon-listed company, while inviting its subsidiary, Sterlite to submit a Special Purposes Vehicle (SPV) to mine the hills.
From the precious little that has been announced so far, it seems that Vedanta would pay only 1% of  the London Metal Exchange price for aluminium trades in order to access the Nyamgiri bauxite. The argument is that it’s impossible to price bauxite in the market – which is not the case. Even adjusted for costs of power, infrastructure, and other inputs, this proportion would represent  around US$25 per tonne on recent spot prices.  Yet China – India’s main customer for its exported bauxite – has been paying around $130 per tonne. Such an arrangement would  appear to represent  a palpable give-away to the UK company.
Whatever the fine points of the eventual SPV, the court has insisted that mining should benefit local people and demonstrate good environmental management. Given Vedanta’s appalling record in this regard – both at its bauxite operations in Chhattisgarh and the Lanjigarh alumina refinery nestling beneath Nyamigiri – it doubtless still has many obstacles ahead.
One of the key struggles for the company will be to present its credentials as a bona fide partner to the Dongaria Kondh, custodians of Nyamgiri and upholders of the mountain’s own law (Niyam Raja).
Several newspaper reports, in the UK and India, have cited Vedanta’s executive chairman, Anil Agarwal, as recognising the rights of the Dongaria Kondh to withhold permission from the project.  This is based on a statement allegedly made by Agarwal at the company’s London AGM on July 31st.  However, scrutiny of notes taken at the meeting show that Agarwal gave no such promise – referring instead to necessity for permission to be granted by the supreme court and the central government. Already subtle and not-so-subtle pressures, intimidation, and bribes, have been applied to Kondhs on the plains around its Lanjigarh refinery, seeking their  acquiescence  to the company’s ravages. It’s a savage irony that those living in the hills might actually be better off, if they’re now spared further such aggression, to gain their pretended “consent” to a project which numerous observers  confirm they manifestly reject. Demonstration of this rejection will not be found in surveys, yet more interviews, or pretences at public enquiry.The true  battle for the hills has only just commenced.

Written by janjagriti

August 11, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Posted in News

Indian tribe loses fight to stop UK firm building mine on sacred land

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By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
The Independent, 9 August 2008
India’s highest court has ignored the pleas of tribal people fighting to protect a sacred mountain by allowing a British company to establish a bauxite mine across a vast swathe of the area. Despite months of protests by campaigners who say the mine will all but destroy the Niyamgiri Hills, the Supreme Court said Vedanta Resources had met the
conditions required to proceed with the project. It ordered, however, that the company must invest a percentage of its profits from the mine to help local people.
The tribal people have vowed to continue their protests and said they would rather die than give up their homes. Jairam, a villager from the Rayagada district, said: “Even if you kill us we will not give Niyamgiri. Our souls are in Niyamgiri. Our food, water, homes are in Niyamgiri. There is nothing without Niyamgiri.”
For the Dongria Kondh tribe, the Niyamgiri Hills in the state of Orissa represent not just their home but their deity. They say the mountain gives them everything they need for their survival and that they could not live anywhere else. They have repeatedly argued that they cannot understand why their homes should be taken over by a company that will destroy the mountain, especially by a foreign corporation.
But the plan has the backing of powerful interests and both the federal and state government have given to their support to the project, saying it will help industrialise and exploit the mineral interests of an underdeveloped region.
For campaigners, the battle to save Niyamgiri has become a cause celebre at a time when much international attention focuses on India’s economic development.
Some believe yesterday’s ruling could come to represent a landmark decision in which the interests of those people left outside the bubble of growth were deemed less important.
Bratindi Jena, of the charity Action Aid, said: “When any country is developing or shining in terms of its economy, it does not help the marginalised communities – the tribal people, women, and so forth. They remain outside of the
benefits. [This decision] is devastating for the indigenous people living there.”
At Vedanta’s shareholders’ meeting last week in London, the company chairman, Anil Agarwal, said the project would only proceed with the “complete permission” of the courts and the local people.
A Vedanta spokesman, C B Krishnan, said last night: “A public hearing was held and all the local people supported the project. It’s all in the public record.”

Written by janjagriti

August 9, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

India’s top court clears Posco, Vedanta projects in key rulings

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By Penny MacRae
Online Link:
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India’s top court has cleared South Korean steel giant Posco’s plan for a 12-billion-dollar plant in a controversial case seen pitting farmers’ interests against growing industrial development.
In another key case viewed as a test of tribal rights, the court approved British mining company Vedanta Resources’ proposal to mine bauxite on land held  sacred by locals to feed a 900-million-dollar aluminium refinery.
The plant to be built by Posco, Asia’s top steel producer, in the resource-rich eastern coastal state of Orissa would be the biggest foreign direct investment  in India since it launched market reforms in 1991.
But the plant, which aims to create 18,000 jobs in a poverty-ridden part of the country over the next decade, has stirred violent protests by farmers objecting to loss of their land.
In both rulings Friday, the court imposed environmental and compensation conditions but the stipulations did not satisfy the projects’ opponents.
“The ruling has no bearing on our struggle. We’ll continue our fight against Posco. We’ll never give up our land,” said Abhoy Sahu, head of the group  spearheading the protests against the steel project.
The government has been keen to draw foreign and domestic investment to create job-generating industries.But the shift from agriculture has stirred big debate and often violent local opposition as many projects encroach on farm or tribal land.
Seoul-based Posco welcomed the court ruling and said it would proceed swiftly with the project, initially agreed in 2005, requiring 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land.
POSCO plans a four-million tonne steel plant and a 400-megawatt power plant. The company has a “firm commitment to the project” and is determined to move ahead “at full speed,” said Posco India senior general manager Vikash Sharan.
Vedanta also said it was happy with the approval of its plan to carry out open caste bauxite mining on what tribals say is their holy mountain, also in Orissa state.
The company had sought permission to mine vast bauxite deposits in the fertile forested Niyamgiri Hills to supply the aluminium refinery it built nearby. Vedanta has been feeding its refinery with bauxite purchased from other Indian states.
The case was seen as an important test of tribal and environmental rights against industrialisation.
London-based Survival International director Stephen Corry called the ruling “a devastating blow” to “all of India’s tribal peoples.”
In Orissa, Dongria Kondh tribal Jitu Jakaka, said: “We are deeply connected with the mountain… our sacred place. It is home to our god Niyamraja. We will not allow the company to mine our land.”
Last November, Norway’s state pension fund withdrew 13 million dollars in investments in Vedanta, accusing it of “causing serious damage to people and to the environment” in India. Hosted by  Copyright © 2008 AFP.

Written by janjagriti

August 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Posted in News