Bhubaneswar, April 18 (IANS) Activists fighting against the displacement of people for industry and mining in Odisha Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court order on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri bauxite project in the state.
Prafulla Samantray, president of the Odisha unit of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, who is also a petitioner against the Vedanta mining project, said he would have been much happier had the court denied permission for mining in Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi district.
Samantray, however, said he welcomed the decision of the court, as it recognised the gram sabha. “The court recognised the gram sabha as the authority to decide on mining in the scheduled area” he told IANS.
“It is the gram sabha which will take a call on the matter. We hope the gram sabha will give its verdict against the project” he said.
The court ruling is likely to delay the mining project of the company which has shut its one-million-tonne per annum alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district since December last year due to shortage of bauxite.
Vedanta had entered into a supply arrangement with Odisha government, which was to supply bauxite through a state agency from nearby Niyamgiri Hills, but its clearance had been challenged by anti displacement groups.
The Supreme Court Thursday asked the authorities to go back to the gram sabha for the consideration of the tribals’ religious and cultural aspects.
The apex court forest bench, headed by Justice Aftab Alam, said that the gram sabha would look into the religious and cultural aspects of the (Dongaria Kondh) tribals in the region in three months’ time and take a decision.
Thereafter, Vedanta will go to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) which will decide in two months’ time on Phase 2 clearance.
The court’s order came taking note of the tribals’ worship on the hilltop of Niyamgiri, which the Dongria Kondh tribals of the region believe is the seat of their god.
The apex court verdict came on the Odisha Mining Corporation and Vedanta’s plea against the 2010 MoEF order withdrawing Phase 2 clearance on the grounds of violations of conditions attached to an earlier clearance granted in 2008.