India: Sacred mountain still under threat


The sacred mountain at the heart of the Dongria Kondh people's culture remains under threat after a British Government investigation.

In September 2009, the British government upheld a complaint against the FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources by Survival International saying a change in the company's behaviour was "essential" and to "immediately and adequately engage with the indigenous group."

Dongria Kondh According to Survival there has been no change. "They have adamantly refused to change the way they operate, which can best be characterised as bullying and obstructive," said Survival Director Stephen Corry.

The final statement issued by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) seems to bear this out. Vedanta claim there will be no displacement from the proposed mining project as there is no inhabitation and seem to want to close the case. Survival International said in a press release that Vedanta have said, "Vedanta wishes to make clear that it does not accept the UK National Contact Point's conclusions. Vedanta considers the UK National Contact Point's criticisms both inaccurate and inappropriate."

The final statement asserts that the construction of the bauxite mine is being progressed in compliance with Indian law, but concern has been raised about the plans from as far afield as the Church of England and Norwegian government. Survival claim Vedanta Resources is a British company, formed for the purpose of floating in the London Stock Exchange and is therefore bound be British corporate guidelines.

But Vedanta seem to be wearying of the debate. "We expect the UK NCP to take a constructive and consultative approach," said Vedanta "please now respect our position and rest the case."

Dancing at festival It's hard to imagine this happening. The case is now so high profile and has received such diverse and weighty criticism there seems no handshake on the horizon. Just a few weeks ago the Dongria Kondh held their annual festival on top of the mountain at the centre of this case: they certainly don't seem ready to hand over the land.

both photos © Survival International

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