Villagers in Dantewada protest against NMDC’s unconstitutional public hearing
Image: Public Hearing of NMDC in Dantewada. (Picture: Mangal Kunjam)
Bailadila range of mines is located in southern part of Chhattisgarh in Dantewada District. For the last 50 years, NMDC has been extracting iron ore from Baliadila mountains for its mining project. It was established in 1960’s and currently comprises of 14 iron ore deposits in the region.
More than 52 villages are affected due to Bailadila mine. A simple survey of all the villages would show that farming lands have become barren as a result of iron ore tailings flowing from the mines into water bodies and farm land. Though compensation is not a solution to the problem, only few villagers are entitled to compensation for it and that too in a meager amount. Every year, iron ore tailings flows into farm lands through polluted water bodies and nothing has been done by the mining project to prevent this. As a result thousands of acres of land have become barren.
Currently, NMDC deposit no. 10 has been producing 3.2 million tonnes to 4.2 million tonnes, and the public hearing was organized to increase its capacity to 6 million tonnes. Bailadila mine has caused environmental pollution, affecting lives of nearby villages, at the same time threatening sacred places of Adivasis.
It is ironic that, while existing mine highlights such severe concerns, in October this year “NMDC’s Bailadila Iron ore mine-Bacheli Complex has bagged FIMI (Federation of Indian Mineral Industry) Golden Jubilee Award for Excellence. The award was given on basis of best practices adopted, improvement over the last 10 years, environment management, social awareness, health and safety, overall mine performance and its exemplary Reclamation & Rehabilitation (R&R) efforts.”
Bastar division comes under the fifth schedule of the constitution, where PESA act is also in effect. According to 5th schedule of the constitution, a public notice is supposed to be issued before organizing such public hearing. However, it was not done. Traditional Adivasi leaders of village – Gaayta, Majhi, Perma, Kotwar and even village Sarpanch were not informed about this. [Gaayta, Perma and Majhi are the traditional priests, leaders who perform rituals to please land, forest god and goddesses. Festivals like Naya Khayi and other decisions about village are taken only after their permission and the first rights over land belongs to them.] Constitutionally, consent of affected villages must be taken through gram sabha, but that has not been done yet. This is a gross violation of constitution and villagers on November 15, protested the public hearing in front of district administration.
Taking up the issue, residents of Bade Kameli village immediately responded and protested against public hearing of NMDC Bailadila. Traditional village leaders and elders wrote to Chhattisgarh Enviornmental Protection Committee opposing the hearing. On November 16, village leaders also met with District collector and have demanded to take action against the unconstitutional hearing organized by NMDC.
The news report was originally written in Hindi and can be accessed here.