India: Defend the right of Indigenous peoples to live in a healthy environment
The Indigenous People who live near the town of Lanjigarh in India’s Orissa state used to have enough to eat, and plenty of pure river water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
A few years ago, a company named Vedanta Resources arrived in Lanjigarh because they had discovered a plentiful supply of an ore called bauxite. The company planned to build a refinery to turn the bauxite into alumina.
Vedanta Resources and the Orissa state government told the Indigenous community that they would get jobs and be offered money to give up their land and locate elsewhere. Some agreed. So the land was cleared for the refinery, whether everyone agreed or not.
Now, the air, water and land have all been polluted. The community did not know that their land would be severely polluted, and that they would not be given meaningful jobs. They did not know that the refinery’s poisonous waste, collected in “red mud ponds” would make them sick. They did not know they had a right to be consulted first, nor that it was their right to say “no” to the project.
Not far from Lanjigarh, there is another community where the land also contains bauxite. This is the Niyamgiri (NEE-yum-ghee-ree) Hills where the Indigenous group called the Dongria Kondh live. Vedanta Resources wants to mine there too. But here the community has been fighting to keep their land. They consider it sacred because it gives them everything they need. They have also seen the pollution that happened in Lanjigarh. They know that once bauxite is removed from the hills, the ecosystem is ruined forever.
Under Indian and international law, Indigenous Peoples have the right to be consulted before anything happens on their land. And they are entitled to refuse if they see that the result will be harmful.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Please send a polite letter to the Minister of the Environment and Forests.
• Start your letter with “Dear Minister” and tell her where you are writing from.
• Explain that the expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery must not go ahead until all the human rights and environmental concerns have been addressed.
• Urge her to make sure that the refinery is cleaned up.
• Insist that the government not allow Vedanta to mine in the Niyamgiri Hills unless the Dongria Kondh communities have been fully consulted and agree to it.
WHERE DO I SEND MY MESSAGE?
Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan
Minister of Environment & Forests
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110 003
Fax: 011 91 11 24362222
You can also send your message to:
Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Government of Orissa
Fax: 011 91 674 253 1500
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Watch a video that shows how the Indigenous community is being affected by Vedanta’s mining practices at http://act.amnesty.org.in/stop_vedanta. There is a second video, Save Niyamgiri, at the bottom. If you wish to sign the petition on that page, be sure to un-check the Send me email updates / Send me text message updates in order to avoid unwanted messages.