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The Guardian/UK

And We Call This Progress?

Business As Usual: Vedanta Mine Plans Threaten India's Poorest. An ecosystem destroyed. A way of life gone forever. Private profit and public pain.

Bauxite mountains are part of a very delicate ecosystem. The mining of bauxite and the process by which it is turned into aluminum is among the most toxic, environmentally devastating processes imaginable.

If Vedanta is allowed to go ahead with its plans for mining the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa, in India's east, for bauxite it will lead to the devastation of a whole ecosystem and the destruction of not just the Dongria Kondh tribal community, but eventually all those whose livelihoods depend on that ecosystem.

The battle lines are very clearly drawn. On the one hand the Indian government with all its might, its judiciary and its police has aligned itself with the mining cartel of several corporations, led from the front by Vedanta. On the other side are India's poorest forest-dwelling people who stand to be displaced from their homes and lose their livelihoods and their way of life.

In some ways it's an ancient battle and a familiar one, whose story has been played out over centuries in every continent across the world and has had a more or less similar outcome, ie the corporations always win. This is commonly known as "progress".

However, today, in the era of climate change, surely it's time to realise that forests, river systems, mountain ranges and people who know how to live in ecologically sustainable ways, are worth more than all the bauxite in the world. Vedanta ought to be stopped in its tracks. Now. Immediately. Before any more damage is done.

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Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives, and has worked as a film designer, actor, and screenplay writer in India. Her latest book, Listening to Grasshoppers: Fields Notes on Democracy, is a collection of recent essays. A tenth anniversary edition of her novel, The God of Small Things (Random House), for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, was recently released. She is also the author of numerous nonfiction titles, including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.

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