Dongria Kondh- Profit over people?
PLEASE TRANSLATE YOUR PASSION FOR THIS FILM INTO REALITY. This article is an urgent call for help, and I ask only for a few minutes of your time reading.
In Orissa, a region of Eastern India, the future of a whole people, the Dongria Kondh, is about to disappear. The plans of a British based company, Vedanta, are set to mine the sacred mountain that the Dongria call home for a mineral called bauxite. If you have seen the film Avatar, the plight of the Dongria people shares striking parallels.
The Dongria have not been consulted about the mine. They are adamantly opposed to its construction and workings, which will destroy the forests, disrupt the rivers and spell the end of the Dongria Kondh’s identity as a distinct people. Vedanta’s mine is fast becoming one of the most controversial mining project in the world. Numerous shareholders (including the Church of England) have given up their stakes in the company in protest, and Vedanta has been condemned by many; such as Amnesty International and both the British and Norwegian governments. But this alone is not enough to ensure that the proposals do not go ahead: the public must add their voices to those of the Dongria Kondh.
There are over 8,000 members of the Dongria tribe and they are a mountain people, growing crops and gather fruit, completely self-sufficient and reliant on the mountain on which they live They call themselves Jharnia, meaning ‘protector of streams’ because they protect their sacred mountain and the life-giving rivers that rise within its thick forests.
To the Dongria, Niyam Dongar hill is the seat of their God, Niyam Raja. To Vedanta it is a $2 billion deposit of bauxite. The Dongria are simply obstacles to be manipulated. Profit over people?
Although Vedanta has failed to get all the necessary clearances within the prescribed 5-year period ( and that under Indian law all clearances for the project are therefore void and the Indian ministry should revoke them) India’s Supreme Court recently approved the project, and mining could begin in a matter of months. One of the Court’s conditions is that some of the mine’s profits are put towards ‘tribal development’.
But no ‘development’ or ‘compensation’ package could cure the problems that mining Niyamgiri will cause: the destruction of a unique environment and culture. The Dongria have accused Vedanta of ‘trying to flood us out with money’ and have made it clear that:
‘Mining only makes profit for the rich. We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money. We don’t want the mine or any help at all from the company.’
The Dongria and neighbouring Kondh tribes are determined to protect their sacred mountain. They have held roadblocks, human chains and countless protests and demonstrations against Vedanta. This can only be effective to a certain point, urgent action is needed and the more voices that speak out against this violation of human and environmental justice, the more powerful the message will be.
A short film (just 10 minutes long) has been made about the Dongria Kondh people and Vedanta, which explains the situation far better than words alone, and is free to watch at www.survivalinternational.org/films/mine . Survival International is a pressure group to safeguard the rights of tribal people worldwide. On the website it offers templates to write letters to the Indian Ministry for environment, your Indian Embassy, MPs, MEPs and also, importantly, Vedanta. Alternatively you can write your own letter. I am asking for just 10 minutes of your time to watch the video, maybe post it to a facebook account, tell a friend, raise awareness or take action. The video clip is very powerful and taking action is simple- simply print of and sign a letter. Just 10 minutes of your time will have profound effects for the future of these people.
Thank you so much for reading this article and I really hope that after watching the video you are inspired and moved to help protect the rights of these people!