A storm is brewing between the Andhra Pradesh government and the Adivasis over the former’s decision to review the bauxite mining lease in Visakhapatnam district’s Agency area. While the State government is moving cautiously, the tribals with the support of political parties and rights organisations are asserting their willingness to put up a tough fight and obstruct the proposed mining activity which had been put on the back-burner for sometime.
The fear of losing their livelihood is giving sleepless nights to the tribals who are opposing bauxite mining. Besides, environmentalists fear that it would damage the fragile ecological system in the Eastern Ghats, from where several rivulets like Gosthani, Sarada and other originate. They point out that large-scale water contamination would also cause severe damage even in the plain areas, after these rivulets get affected and merge with the Godavari river.
Various organisations representing tribals, environmentalists and rights activists along with the Left parties made it clear that they would not sit quiet if the TDP government resumes bauxite mining.
Over the last two weeks, massive protests are being organized by thousands of tribals from villages in GK Veedhi mandal, including Darakonda,
Duppilavada and Gummarevula. The tribals also observed a day-long bandh in the villages. The Maoists, who are eagerly waiting for a chance to win the confidence of the tribals, too have joined the bandwagon of agitators against bauxite mining.
The cash-strapped Andhra Pradesh government is learnt to be seriously mulling over permitting the bauxite mining in the Visakhapatnam agency area and fill the treasury with part of the revenue earned through mining of over 546 million tonne of bauxite reserves spread over 31.4 km in the Visakhapatnam Agency. “The government is exploring various routes for filling the coffer without putting much burden on public. Exploitation of mineral wealth is definitely on the cards and it would not only earn good revenue for the government but also provide employment to hundreds of people,” said sources in the Revenue department.
While one has to wait for the final decision of the state government which claims to be ‘studying’ the proposal, the tribals are leaving no stone unturned and have decided to intensify the agitation.
With the strong support from the Left parties which are keen to regain their glory in the agency area, the agitations seem to be just a teaser. They point out that they will not forgive Naidu if goes back on his stand and permits bauxite mining.
VIOLATION OF RIGHTS
The mining project violates the Constitutional rights of the tribal communities living in Schedule Five areas and the state and Central laws that ensure protection of their land and livelihood including the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayats (Extention to Scheduled Areas) Act.
In Visakhapatnam district alone, 247 tribal villages in the Agency area would be badly affected and nearly 10,000 Adivasis would be displaced. In East Godavari and Vizianagaram districts also Adivasis would be affected.
Green activists are strongly opposing the bauxite mining in the Fifth Schedule areas, stating that it would adversely affect the livelihood of tribal people and destroy the fragile ecosystem of the Eastern Ghats.
Contamination of rivulets such as Gosthani, Sarada, and others, which are likely to contaminate Godavari river.
Other ill-effects feared include damage to the picturesque Araku valley in Visakhapatnam district, the hydro electric projects such as Machkund and Donkarayi, and also coffee cultivation.
MoUs signed by the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) during the tenure of late chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited in 2005 and Anrak Aluminium Limited in 2007.
Tribal and civil society organisations and opposition political parties have been resisting the mining plans since then. Several TDP leaders participated in the anti-bauxite mining agitation then and Chadrababu Naidu himself backed it.
The MoUs were kept under abeyance by the UPA-II govt in August 2010 following objections raised by then Araku MP V Kishore Chandra Deo against mining in the Scheduled Areas.
ENORMITY OF BAUXITE RESERVES
Total bauxite reserves in Visakhapatnam Agency are about 546 million tonnes spread over 31.4 square km.
Bauxite reserves in Vizag Agency are spread in Chittangondi, Rakthakonda and Galikonda, GK Veedhi block of Sapparla group and the largest at Chintapalli in Jerrala.
NOW, AP GOVERNMENT WANTS
To allow mining and use the proceeds only for the welfare of Adivasis.
Permit bauxite mining through a special system under the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA).
Other options like allowing PSUs like NALCO or a wing under the tribal welfare dept.