KORAPUT: Tribals opposed the proposed bauxite mining in Pottangi by Nalco during a public hearing organised by Odisha State Pollution Control Board at the mini stadium here on Tuesday.
The Navratna PSU had applied for environment clearance from Environment Ministry for bauxite mining lease spread over 697.979 hectare (ha) land in Pottangi village of Koraput district.
The bauxite mining lease will have an annual capacity of 3.5 million tonne per annum (MTPA).
The Nalco, meanwhile, claimed that the locals voiced in favour of the PSU carrying out mining. “With significant participation of villagers, the meeting was conducted successfully in presence of public representatives - past and present - who shared their views,” Nalco stated in a press release from Bhubaneswar.
Speaking at the hearing, social activist Pratap Choudhury opposed the mining as it would impact agriculture in the area. Ninety per cent of the population in Pottangi, Maliput and Sipaiput depends on vegetable and paddy crops which are fed by various natural streams from Serubandha mountain.
“If mined, the streams will dry up affecting crops,” he said, adding that Kolab will also dry up under the impact of mining.
Secretary of Serubandha Surakhaya Samiti Muralidhar Guntha submitted a memorandum to the district administration stating that the entire mountain range should not be mined as it is home to various tribal deities and of great religious significance to locals.
Supporting the locals, Koraput MP Saptagiri Ulaka said he would go with the public opinion. Accusing State Government of misutilising Nalco’s periphery development fund, he said the Rs108 crore sanctioned by the Central PSU to the Government three years back under Enterprise Social Responsibility (ESR) is lying unutilised.
Former MP Jayram Pangi said before mining, Nalco should develop downstream ancillary units in the region to address the unemployment problem.ADM Deben Pradhan, who presided over the public hearing, said a large number of people opposed the mining proposal and video recording of the public hearing will be sent to the Ministry.
Executive Director of Nalco Rabishankar Das, on the other hand, claimed that no trees will be felled and no person would be displaced due to the mining activity.
The PSU has placed Rs 54 crore with the State Government last month for development of Pottangi, he informed.
Pradhan shared details of 31 development projects that would be executed in the area under corporate social responsibility at an expenditure of Rs 12 crore.
Heavy security arrangement was put in place for smooth conduct of the hearing.