Tribals up in arms against Andhra Pradesh govt’s mining moves

The opponents of the project argue that mining would amount to violation of constitutional rights of tribal communities, besides violating Forest and Panchayat Acts.

By P. S. Jayaram (Reporting from ?Hyderabad)

Published: Tue 26 Aug 2014, 8:47 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 12:03 AM

The Andhra Pradesh government’s plans to mobilise funds by allowing bauxite mining in the forest areas in the north coastal district of Visakhapatnam has run into rough weather with tribal and civil rights organisations up in arms against the move.

Following the moves in this direction by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, a fresh wave of protests broke out in the tribal-dominated areas opposing the mining on the ground that it would adversely affect the livelihood of tribals and destroy the fragile ecosystem of the eastern Ghats.

Several organisations representing tribals, environmentalists, civil rights activists and left parties have joined hands to intensify the agitation if the TDP government gives its nod for mining.

Reports have it that the cash-strapped Chandrababu Naidu government was planning to give the green signal for bauxite mining and use the proceeds for the welfare of local tribal families. The options being considered by the government are permission for mining through a special system under Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) or through PSUs like NALCO or a wing under the tribal welfare department.

Visakhapatnam district is endowed with vast reserves of bauxite, estimated to be about 546 million tonnes spread over 31.4 square km.

Mining in this area has for long been an emotive issue in the region. The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had to put the proposal on the backburner in the face of strong resistance from local organisations and political groups. “The renewed move by the state government to allow mining will disturb ecology and also violate Forest Rights Act and Panchayat Act,” contends V S Krishna, secretary of Human Rights Forum (HRF).

The opponents of the project argue that mining would amount to violation of constitutional rights of tribal communities, besides violating Forest and Panchayat Acts. Interestingly, the TDP had itself opposed mining in the area when it was in the opposition. It is argued that in Visakhapatnam district alone, 247 tribal villages would be adversely affected and nearly 10,000 Adivasis would be displaced if mining activity is taken up.

The other potential dangers being cited are contamination of local rivulets, damage to the picturesque Araku valley in Visakhapatnam district, hydro-electric projects such as Machkund and Donkarayi and also coffee cultivation.

“Exploitation of mineral wealth could be one of the routes to explore resource mobilization without burdening the people,” official sources said.

However, the state CPI assistant secretary J V Satyanarayana Murthy attacked the ruling TDP for its duplicity on the issue. “Has Chandrababu Naidu forgotten that his party had also opposed mining and the UPA government could not take up the project due to public resistance?” he asked.

When late Y S Rajasekhar Reddy was the chief minister, the state government had signed MoUs with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited in 2005 and other company for taking up bauxite mining.

The MoUs were kept under abeyance by the UPA-II government in August 2010 following objections raised by the then Union Minister and Congress MP from Araku V Kishore Chandra Deo.

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