Mumbai : Weeks after the Tamil Nadu government ordered the shutting down of the Sterlite plant in Tuticorin through a government order, Vedanta faces another challenge in Orissa.
An alliance of activists and local people have for years blocked London-listed company’s plans to mine bauxite in the green, jungle-clad Niyamgiri hills of eastern Odisha.
“We’ll shed our blood for Niyamgiri, we will die for Niyamgiri,” said tribal leader Lado Sikaka. “Vedanta can give jobs to only a few but Niyam Raja has given us everything,” he said, referring to the hill-god of the community’s traditional animist religion. “We will keep fighting till the end. We will intensify our agitation.”
In Tuticorin, officially known as Thoothukudi, Vedanta has been accused by local residents and environmentalists of polluting the air and groundwater. The police shootings on May 22 came after at least 50,000 people gathered on the 100th day of their campaign to oppose the expansion of the smelter. Vedanta has already spent more than $9 billion to build the refinery and an aluminium smelter in Odisha. The refinery has never made money since being commissioned in 2007, mainly due to the use of costly bauxite. The company, in which billionaire Anil Agarwal has a controlling stake, called the incident “absolutely unfortunate”. It denies it is in breach of any environmental laws.
Sikaka and other representatives of the Dongria Kondh tribe say they fear the company aims to revive plans to tap the high-quality bauxite beneath the pristine Niyamgiri hills.
The Madras High Court on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction over the recent Tamil Nadu Government Order for shutting down the Sterlite copper unit in Tuticorin and suggested that a proper G.O. be issued after taking a policy decision.
A bench of Justices C T Selvam and A M Basheer Ahamed made the observation while hearing a batch of petitions against the Sterlite plant.