India: Government Must Stop Bauxite Mine and Refinery Expansion Until Human Rights are Addressed

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India: Government Must Stop Bauxite Mine and Refinery Expansion Until Human Rights are Addressed

DEHLI - Indian authorities have given local communities scant or misleading
information about the potential impact of a proposed alumina refinery
expansion and mining project to be operated by subsidiaries of UK-based
company Vedanta Resources in Orissa, Amnesty International said in a
new report published today. 
 
The Amnesty International report, Don’t Mine Us out of Existence:
Bauxite Mine and Refinery Devastate Lives in India documents how an
alumina refinery operated by a subsidiary of UK-based FTSE 100 company
Vedanta Resources in Orissa, is causing air and water pollution that
threatens the health of local people and their access to water.

“People are living in the shadow of a massive refinery, breathing
polluted air and afraid to drink from and bathe in a river that is one
of the main sources of water in the region,” said Ramesh
Gopalakrishnan, Amnesty International’s researcher on South Asia.  “It
is shocking how those who are most affected by the project have been
provided with the least information”

Adivasi (Indigenous), Dalit, women and other marginalised
communities in the remote part of Orissa where the refinery is located
have described to Amnesty International how authorities told them that
the refinery would transform the area into a Mumbai or Dubai. 

The Orissa State Pollution Control Board has documented air and
water pollution from Vedanta Aluminium’s refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa.
Amnesty International found that the pollution threatens the health of
local people and their access to clean water yet there has been no
health monitoring.

“We used to bathe in the river but now I am scared of taking my
children there. Both my sons have had rashes and blisters.” a local
woman told Amnesty International. The organization recorded many
similar accounts from people living around the refinery.

Despite these concerns and the environmentally sensitive location of
the refinery near a river and villages, the government is considering a
proposal for a six-fold expansion of the refinery. Neither the Indian
authorities nor Vedanta have shared information on the extent of
pollution and its possible effects with local communities.

The Orissa Mining Corporation and another Vedanta Resources
subsidiary also plan to mine bauxite in the nearby Niyamgiri Hills. The
proposed mine threatens the very existence of the Dongria Kondh, an
8,000 strong protected indigenous community that has lived on the
Niyamgiri hills for centuries. The hills are considered sacred by the
Dongria Kondh and are essential for their economic, physical and
cultural survival, yet no process to seek the community’s informed
consent has been established.

A Dongria Kondh man told Amnesty International, “We have seen what
happens to other Adivasis when they are forced to leave their
traditional lands, they lose everything.”

“The people of Orissa are among the poorest in India and their
health is being threatened by pollution from the refinery.  Their
voices are being ignored by Vedanta Resources and its partner companies
as well as by Orissa’s government. There has been inadequate
consultation with local people about the changes on the ground and yet
it’s their lives and futures which hang in the balance,” said Ramesh
Gopalakrishnan.

Amnesty International is calling on the Government of India and
Vedanta Resources to ensure that there is no expansion of the refinery
and mining does not go ahead until existing problems are resolved.
Amnesty International is also calling for full consultation with local
people and for the Indian authorities to set up a process to seek the
free, prior and informed consent of the Dongria Kondh.

Notes to Editors:
• The alumina refinery in Lanjigarh is operated by Vedanta Aluminium
Ltd. Vedanta Resources owns 70.5 per cent of Vedanta Aluminium and
Sterlite India Ltd. owns the remaining 29.5 per cent. Vedanta Resources
owns 59.9 per cent of Sterlite India and has management control of the
company. The mining project would be operated by a joint venture, the
South-west Orissa Bauxite Mining Corporation, involving Sterlite India
(74 per cent) and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (26 per
cent).
• The Dongria Kondh are an adivasi (Indigenous community) and were
described as ‘endangered’ by India’s Supreme Court-appointed Central
Empowered Committee (CEC).
• Under international law, the government of India has an obligation to
respect, protect and fulfil human rights including the rights to water
and health and to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples over the
lands and territories they traditionally occupy. The obligation to
protect requires measures by states to ensure that other actors (such
as companies) do not undermine or violate human rights. Government
failure to protect human rights does not absolve companies from
responsibility for their operations and the impact of those operations
on human rights. Companies should – at minimum – respect all human
rights.
• This report 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 aims to mobilise people all over
the world to demand that governments, big 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 www.demanddignity.org

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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