Plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills in the Indian state of Orissa threaten the very existence of the Dongria Kondh – an indigenous community that has lived on and around the hills for centuries.
The Dongria Kondh depend entirely on the hills for their food, water, livelihoods and cultural identity. They consider the Niyamgiri Hills as sacred.
The proposed mine could have grave repercussions for their human rights to water, food, health, work and other rights as an Indigenous community in respect of their traditional lands. International law requires that governments seek their free, prior informed consent before beginning such projects.
In Lanjigarh, at the foot of the Niyamgiri Hills, air and water pollution from an alumina refinery run by Vedanta Aluminium are threatening the health and well-being of local communities.
Although the Orissa State Pollution Control Board has reported serious concerns about water contamination and air pollution and documented numerous failures on the part of the company to adequately manage waste disposal from the refinery, this information has never been shared with local people.
No health monitoring has ever been done. Despite the existing problems and widespread community concerns, Vedanta Aluminium has sought clearance to expand the refinery’s capacity six-fold.
Vedanta Resources and its subsidiaries have failed to take action to adequately remedy the problems identified above. The companies involved have also failed to abide by internationally-accepted standards in relation to the impact of business on human rights - to provide information, consult with people and refine plans to ensure rights are not harmed.
Both Orissa state and Indian national level authorities have also failed to protect the human rights of the communities. Government officials have provided misleading and incomplete information to communities on the benefits and risks of the refinery project.
They have not properly assessed the potential impacts on human rights of either project and have not set up a genuine process of consultation with local people. Enforcement of regulations has been weak and inconsistent, leaving people exposed to ongoing harm.
This work is part of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit Demand Dignity section.
Image: The Vedanta alumina refinery, Lanjigarh, Orissa, February 2009. Copyright: Amnesty International