Posts filed under ‘Industries and mineral resources’

Why India could remain forever poor: Tavleen Singh on Vedanta, Kalahandi and NGOs

Following report is from Indian express:

If there is one story that contains in it all the reasons why India remains a poor country, it is the story of the Vedanta aluminum refinery in Odisha. Now that economic reforms are back on the government’s agenda, it is a story I hope high officials, high-minded judges and busybody NGOs listen to carefully. Why do I tell it this week? Because earlier this month, Sterlite Industries gave notice that they are closing their Lanjigarh refinery because it is bleeding to death. It has lost Rs 2,500 crores trying to stay alive these past two years. When it closes, 6,500 people will lose their jobs in one of India’s poorest districts.

On a tour of Kalahandi’s villages, during the 1987 drought, I saw poverty so horrific that memories of children dying slowly in barren mud huts remains etched painfully not just in my mind but in my heart. The rains failed that year so the economy based on a single annual crop collapsed and thousands of Adivasi families were forced to live on a diet of birdseed and mango kernels for months. Women started selling babies they could not longer feed.

You would think then, would you not, that if someone was prepared to bring investment to such a desolate place he would be applauded, welcomed with open arms. The very opposite happened and for the wrong reasons. The first people to start protesting against Vedanta were foreigners. Had the refinery functioned on bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri hills, aluminum could have been produced in Lanjigarh at $1,500 a tonne, instead of the global cost of $2,050. This caused alarm bells to start ringing in the ears of the international aluminum industry and soon powerful foreign NGOs appeared in Kalahandi to stop the project. Greenpeace and Amnesty International are still there supposedly to protect the interests, and sacred hills, of forest-dwelling Adivasi tribes.

The ‘foreign hand’ would not have mattered if the Government of India had not intervened to make the functioning of the refinery impossible in different ways. One of which was to declare that bauxite could not be mined in the Niyamgiri hills. There continues to be confusion about whether this was for environmental reasons or whether it was to protect Adivasis from losing their land. But, once mining was banned, the Orissa Mining Corporation that had signed an agreement with Vedanta to supply it with 150 million tonnes of bauxite, could no longer do so. It has so far been unable to supply an ounce. Vedanta’s environmental, governmental and NGO problems began after an investment of more than Rs 15,000 crores had already been made in the refinery so for two years it functioned on bauxite imported from other states. An unviable situation so the project will now close.

The Adivasis can now go back to living in primitive harmony with nature without schools for their children, without healthcare, without electricity or clean water and without the possibility of ever improving their lives. Will they be happy this way? Only according to urban NGOs who build flourishing businesses on romanticising desperate poverty and a way of life that they themselves could not abide for a single day.

What is interesting about the targeting of Vedanta by such a range of vested interests is that if it were a public sector company, it could have gone ahead and raped the Niyamgiri hills without anyone noticing. It has happened often in the past and continues to happen across the country. So when the Prime Minister sets in motion his new phase of economic reform, he should ask himself why. Could it be because those who would like to see India’s private sector remain the stunted creature it once was would like it to go back to being that way?

Judging from the tirades of NGOs and leftist political parties, this seems to be the case. They want all the country’s natural resources to remain in the hands of the state even if governments lack the money and the technology to exploit them. They appear never to have asked themselves why it is states that are richest in natural resources whose people remain mired in horrible poverty. Sadly they have been able to get away with the rubbish they talk in the name of the poor because the Prime Minister has never explained the need for economic reforms.

If all he can come up with is the kind of speech he made last week about ‘money not growing on trees’, then there is not the smallest chance that the reforms will succeed. The noise made by those who are either economically illiterate or have a vested interest in India remaining a poor country forever is too loud and the mood of negativity they have created too deep. The lies they have told are widely believed.

Follow Tavleen on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

October 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm 1 comment

Lower Suktel Irrigation Project of Balangir district: Politics and Reality

Following report is from the Samaja:

September 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm 4 comments

Kolkota based Ambo Steel and Power to set up pellet unit in Deogarh

Following is a report from the Pioneer:

Kolkota-based Ambo Steel and Power has proposed to set up a 1.2-MTPA pellet and beneficiation plant at Barkot in Deogarh district with an investment of Rs 478 crore.

Ipicol CMD CJ Venugopal said the proposal of the company was cleared at the State-Level Single Window Clearance Authority (SLSWCA) held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik.

The SLSWCA cleared two industrial project proposals worth Rs 538 crore, including the Ambo Steel and Power Company’s pellet and beneficiation plant. The Ipicol CMD said Ambo Steels and Power proposed to set up the plant in two phases and requires 200 acres of land. The plant would provide direct employment to around 500 people.

The company has also agreed to a proposal from the State Government to set up maize processing plant in undivided Koraput district, Venugopal said. He also said that the proposal of the SMB Beverage to set up a soft drink bottling plant at Bhatly in Bargarh district at a cost of Rs 60 crore, also got the nod of the SLSWCA. The plant would have a capacity to produce Rs 100 lakh crates per annum and provide direct employment opportunity to 117 persons. The company has sought 15 acres of land for the setting up the soft drinks bottling plant.

Venugopal said that as per the in principle decision of the SLSWCA, henceforth, the District Level Single Window Clearance Committee headed by the District Collectors were authorized to give clearance to all viable tourism related projects worth less than Rs 5 crore. Tourism projects above Rs 5 crore would come under the purview of the SLSWCA for scrutiny, he said.

In another major decision, the SLSWCA in principle prohibited setting up of any industry within 300 metres from the National and State Highways.

August 20, 2012 at 6:32 am Leave a comment

Eighty-six percent of Odisha households do not have access to piped water supply

Following report is from the Sambad:

July 18, 2012 at 1:02 am Leave a comment

Darlipali super thermal power station

Following report is from the Sambad:

 

July 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

People of Balangir demand completion of lower Suktel irrigation project

Following report is from the Sambad:

June 19, 2012 at 7:19 am Leave a comment

Drinking water problem in Boudh

Following report is from the Sambad:

June 12, 2012 at 2:21 am Leave a comment

Will industries suck Hirakud dry?

Following report is from the Samaja:

June 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm 1 comment

Drinking water problem in Odisha

Following report is from the Samaja:

June 7, 2012 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

The death of Khandadhar waterfall

Following report is from the outlook: 

Drying up Khandadhara waterfall, a victim of iron ore mining in Khandadhar mountains

A rugged, tree-covered mountain range sweeps vertically into a brilliant blue sky. Out of a cave on its western side gushes a natural spring, its lacy, white water tripping 244 metres over a sheer black-and-red cliff face to fall into a blissful rock pool, before cascading further downhill. The site is of ethereal beauty, evoking awe, elation, a sense of rejuvenation.

One of India’s highest and most sacred waterfalls, Khandadhara in Sundergarh, Orissa, is cherished by tens of thousands for the life it brings to all in its vicinity. “It’s because of the Khandadhara that my life flows with power,” says a Munda resident of Bandhbarna village, which lies near the foot of the mountain. Although a migrant from Jharkhand, he shares the reverence of all the indigenous peoples here—including the Christians—for the Khandadhar mountain and its waterfall.

By common consent, the guardians of the range are the Pauri Bhuiya, a tribe of shifting cultivators who traditionally live in the dense sal forest that covers the peaks. Genetic research finds that about 24,000 years ago the Pauri Bhuiya shared a common ancestor with the Jarawa of the Andaman Islands—a reminder that India’s indigenous peoples directly descend from some of the first modern humans to wander the earth. The Pauri Bhuiya are also unique among Orissa’s tribals for speaking a version of Oriya, rather than an entirely different language: they claim theirs is the original Oriya.

A Pauri Bhuiya legend speaks of how their mountains came to be so munificent. The Sundergarh branch of the community was once possessed by a rapacious goddess named Kankala Devi, who consumed trees, soil and everything else. In despair, the Pauri Bhuiya placed her on a rock, which she ate through as well—creating a deep hole from which poured out the Khandadhara (split-rock waterfall). So they had water. Then a couple from the community went to visit relatives at the eastern, or Keonjhar, end of the Khandadhar mountain range. Their prospective hosts were away but a pile of grains had been left outdoors and, amazingly, not even the birds were eating it. Inside the heap, the couple discovered a small goddess, Khand Kumari, protector of the region’s prosperity. They stole her and brought her back to Sundergarh, and so her bounty became theirs.

The mining firms call the Khandadhar range the “jackpot”; Orissa govt has promised Posco 2,500 ha of it.

The Pauri Bhuiya never cut down a shade or fruit tree, so the mountaintop abounds with nourishment. The pristine, ancient jungles are home to elephants, sloth bears, leopards, gaur, pythons, peacocks, tigers and a rare limbless lizard—a keystone species that testifies to the richness of the ecosystem. The thick jungle absorbs monsoon rain, releasing the water in perennial streams that feed the Khandadhara. But in the ’90s, some 80 Pauri Bhuiya families were shifted by the Pauri Bhuiya Development Agency (PBDA) from the mountaintop to the plains, under the pretext that their shifting cultivation was damaging the forest.

“Here we have nothing,” laments Kalia Dehuri, who now lives in a PBDA settlement. “Our houses are as small as latrines. They promised us five acres of land each but gave us just a little over one acre. When we lived in the forest, if I cut my leg I could find a plant to heal it. Now I have to walk miles in the sun to the doctor, who tells me to come back another day.” The despair and hopelessness is palpable. Of the families brought down, at least 15 have since returned to the mountain. “There it is cool,” says Dehuri, “and they have fruit, water, wood, tubers.”

Not for long. The strikingly coloured rocks that give Khandadhara its beauty are red jasper and black hematite—both made of iron. Downstream of Khandadhara, one can pick up massive, gleaming chunks of largely pure iron. The mining companies call the Khandadhar range the “jackpot”, and at this very moment the Supreme Court is deciding which of several contending firms has the winning ticket. The Orissa government has promised the Pohang Steel Co of South Korea (Posco) as much as 2,500 hectares of Khandadhar—essentially the entire Sundergarh section of the mountain range.

Red waste The Kurmitar mountain now

All the region’s tribals know what will happen if Posco comes, because they have had a foretaste. Deep inside the range, invisible from normal roads, rises a horrific sight: the blood-red carcass of Kurmitar mountain, flayed of its skin of trees and topsoil and terraced into a giant pyramid by a spiralling road for trucks laden with iron ore. Dynamite blasts have pulverised the underlying rock into a fine dust that gives the mine its brilliant red colour. Behind this Mars-scape, the partially shaved surface of another mountain rises—readied for mining by clear-cutting the trees. Dust smothers the jungle for hundreds of metres around, but in the distance one can see the undulating green of what remains, for now, of the Khandadhar reserved forest.

The Kalinga Commercial Corporation Ltd (KCCL) operates the 133-hectare Kurmitar mine. It boasts on its website of having exceeded production targets by several hundred per cent, and of exporting iron ore to China and manganese ore to an unnamed Korean company. Hanuman is said to have carried on his shoulders a portion of the Himalayas in order to find a medicinal plant to save Lakshman’s life. The Samal family of Bhubaneswar, which runs kcc, could be even more powerful: it is transporting an entire mountain to China and beyond.

Kurmitar was a “devisthan”, the abode of a goddess, say the Pauri Bhuiya. It was covered with dense jungle in which thrived elephants, bears and luscious kakri fruit hanging from vines. No doubt driven out by the blasting and loss of habitat, the elephants have begun emerging in the plains. A tigress appeared in January near Phuljhar, at the foot of the mountain. In April, the forest department burned down the huts and food stores of some 20 Pauri Bhuiya families who had come off the mountain and were sheltering in jungles that had been their own.

Just as frightening, the destruction of the forest and the diversion of a mountaintop stream by KCCL has caused the Khandadhara waterfall to partially dry up. Its water no longer reaches the Brahmani river as it used to, and a canal that Bandhbarna’s residents used for fishing, bathing and irrigating crops has been bone-dry for two summers now. All over the region, tubewells are becoming defunct as the water table falls. Streams by Phuljhar and other villages run red with mining dirt, killing fish and polluting fields. When it rains, even the Khandadhara bleeds red, transforming into a ‘raktadhara’ that flows from the mountain’s gaping wounds. If a 133-hectare mine can cause such havoc, the devastation to be wreaked by Posco’s 2,500-hectare lease is beyond imagination.

To begin with, the Khandadhara waterfall will completely dry up, depriving tens of thousands of the water of life. “The miners are demons…they not only eat the soil and trees and rock, but even the water,” says a Pauri Bhuiya woman in Phuljhar. “Kankala Devi gave us this water, these demons will consume it too. We have to get rid of them or they will eat up everything.” All around the Khandadhar range, the tribals are gearing up for a fight—not only for their own survival, but in defense of a common heritage of humankind.

June 3, 2012 at 10:26 am 1 comment

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