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8 Nov 2021

Priya Ranjan Sahu, DownToEarth

India: Police arrests villagers protesting at hearing on Hindalco’s mining environmental clearances

See all tags Allegations

'Mali Hill bauxite mine: Villagers resist project as Odisha govt extends Hindalco’s mining lease', 08 November 2021

In Odisha’s Koraput district, disquiet looms over the vast, picturesque expanse of lush green paddy, ginger and vegetable fields that separate Mali Hill from Pakajhola village. A proposed mining project in the hill has made the villagers, most of whom are from the Paraja tribe, apprehensive...

Pakajhola, with around 170 families, is also ... one of the four Gram Panchayats around Mali Hill, which are going to be affected by the project by aluminium major Hindalco Industries Ltd. The four Gram Panchayats together have 44 villages with a population of around 20,000 people...

On September 22, the villagers faced off against the district administration and Hindalco officials during a public hearing at Kankaramba village by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) of Odisha on environmental clearances to the company for mining. The hearing could not be held due to stiff protests by hundreds of villagers. The police arrested at least 28 tribal youth based on ... charges [of] ... rioting, armed with deadly weapons, causing hurt to public servant, causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons, attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and other crimes...

The inhabitants of Pakajhola and nearby Rajnaguda and Aligaon villages refuted the police claims. They accused the police of being silent spectators when some alleged anti-social elements forcibly obstructed the villagers’ entry to the venue... six persons from Pakajhola gram panchayat were arrested...

[E]nvironmentalist Prafulla Samantara... has sent an objection petition to the SPCB after the disrupted public hearing at Kankaramba. The EIA report of Hindalco has no specific data on water resources, forest cover, agricultural activities and the impact of mining of bauxite on air, water and soil... This year, however, the Odisha government has extended the mining lease of Hindalco to 50 years from 20 years.