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News Release

ALCAN Juggling with the Futures of Marginalized Peoples in India: Three Villagers Already Killed by Violent Repression

(Montreal) As the fourth World Social Forum prepares to converge in Mumbai in January, much attention is focusing on Montreal-based aluminum multinational ALCAN and its questionable activities in the Forum's host country. On December 16, 2003 from 12-1 PM (EST) Montrealers will be gathering at ALCAN headquarters at 1188 Sherbrooke Street West – and supporters from across North America will be calling in – to creatively challenge ALCAN's presence in India.

On December 16, 2000, Damodar Jhodia, Abhilash Jhodia and Raghunath Jhodia were murdered by police in a police-instigated shooting at Maikanch village, of the Kashipur region in the east Indian state of Orissa. These three unarmed men were targeted for being among the thousands who stand staunchly against a proposed bauxite mine and refinery on their land. The mine and refinery could displace up to 60,000 people from their ancestral homes, destroying their livelihoods and culture, contaminating their food and water sources and obliterating their spiritual sites. ALCAN has a 45% share in this proposal which it quietly increased from 35% when Norwegian giant multinational Norsk Hydro pulled out because of the project's clear disregard for the rights and visions of these indigenous and low-caste people. Weeks after the shootings, 10,000 Kashipur residents gathered to resolve, "We are not afraid to die, we will not leave our land."

Likewise, every year since the murders December 16th has been marked in Kashipur as a day to commemorate the murders of these three fellow people and to renew the movement for self-determination. This year, for the first time, Montrealers will stand in solidarity with these people by creatively re-enacting the significant aspects of the movement and particularly by honouring the slain spirits of Damodar, Abhilash and Raghunath. This will be done in concert with people from across North America who will simultaneously be calling into ALCAN's headquarters to express their concern about the corporation's complicity in violent repression and to remind ALCAN of the clearly stated vision of the peoples of Kashipur. They will be encouraging ALCAN to respect the demands of the peoples' movement for:

  • the cancellation of all treaties signed with various mining companies
  • access to a medical facility and education in harmony with their cultural values
  • local agricultural development through small-scale irrigation projects

The North America event will be happening on December 16th, 2003 at 12-1 PM (EST) in front and over the phone-lines of of Maison Alcan at 1188 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal. All who are concerned about this situation are invited to participate in this creative and powerful event, which will include juggling, drumming and aluminum costumes.

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For more information about the solidarity movement in Montreal and North America, contact Abhimanyu Sud at abhimanyu@riseup.net or (514) 398-7432. For more information about the proposed mine and the peoples' movement, visit www.saanet.org/kashipur.

 

Background

 

Kashipur block in the Rayagada district of Orissa contains one of the largest deposits of bauxite ores in the world. In 1994, a consortium of private companies collectively known as UAIL (Utkal Alumina International Ltd.) was formed to initiate a project to extract these ores and produce alumina. The project area is chiefly occupied by adivasis (indigenous people of India) and dalits (so-called "untouchables"). This project, if executed will lead to large scale displacement and loss of livelihood for these people. The people of Kashipur have have opposed the project since its inception.

Why is the project harmful for the people?

Displacement and loss of livelihood: The people of Kashipur have been farming their land for centuries. Depriving them of their land would make them destitute since they do not have any other avenue of earning a living. The Norwegian development agency NORAD has estimated that about 60,000 people will be displaced by this project. If this project goes ahead it will completely wipe out a self-sustained community.

Facts on displacement: Adivasis constitute less than 8% of India's population but account for more than 40% of India's displaced.
Conservative estimates place the number of people displaced by development projects in India (since 1947) to 33 million. 1.4 million people have been displaced by development projects in Orissa since 1947. Mining in Orissa has displaced 50000 people. New projects are expected to displace at least another 100,000 people.

Loss of indigenous culture: The community would be splintered and this will lead to a loss of indigenous culture. The loss of community would also lead to increased insecurity for women and children. The people will lose Baphlimali hill to the mining project. Baphlimali hill is sacred to the people since they believe it to be the abode of the goddess Baphlimali.

Environmental impact:

The bauxite mining technique proposed in Kashipur is extremely harmful for the environment.

Effluent discharge: A by-product of alumina refining (from mined bauxite) is red mud. It will be disposed using red mud stacking in an enclosed area. This method will give rise to atleast 125 tons of caustic soda a day. The waste will be dumped into two streams that are the major source of water in the villages in the surrounding area. Such large amount of alkaline deposit will raise the pH of the water to 13, making it unfit for consumption. Agriculture and aquatic life downstream will be severely affected. Refer to http://www.saanet.org/kashipur/images/lake.jpg for image of a waterbody polluted by the NALCO mining project in the vicinity of Kashipur.

Ash disposal: The power requirement of 80MW will require about 2800-3000 tons of coal per day. This is expected to generate 900-1000 tons of ash per day that will be dumped into an ash pond. Refer to http://www.saanet.org/kashipur/images/pond.jpg for image of the ash pond at the NALCO mining project near Kashipur. Overburden dumping: According to the environmental clearance given by the government, the company does not have to take care of overburden dumping for the first five years. It is expected that the overburden will be dumped on the slopes of the mined area leading to siltation of streams,damage of slopes and cultivable lands.

Violation of fundamental rights: The fifth schedule of the Indian constitution guarantees the rights of indigenous people over their natural resources and land. The adivasis will lose land that belongs to them according to the Indian constitution.

No tangible benefits for the people: This is a 100% export oriented mining project. All the aluminium produced will be exported since India is self-sufficient in aluminum production. The project will create at most 50 jobs for the local people of Kashipur. There will be small cash compensation for a few who are defined as "project affected" by the company. People losing 75% of their land will not be considered displaced.The compensation proposed is insufficient for the loss of livelihood. There are no plans for Kashipur after the mining is over.

What happened on December 16, 2000?

This project has the active support of the local government and other political parties.The conflict between the people of Kashipur and the
pro-company forces culminated in the killing of 3 villagers from Maikanch village by the police. All project related work was put on hold pending a judicial enquiry into the killing.

Status of the project:

In spite of the repression, the people of Kashipur are steadfast in their resolve to oppose the project. Work on the project hasn't yet started.
However a recent judicial enquiry in the killings of December 16, 2000 cleared the company and the government of all wrongdoing. This paves the way for the starting of the project work.

Resources:

1. Kashipur web site: http://www.saanet.org/kashipur/
2. Environmental impact of the mining project: 'Assessment of Environmental, Economic and Social Impacts of Bauxite Mining and Alumina Processing in Orissa', TARU, June 1996, New Delhi.
3. Information about the fifth schedule: http://www.mmpindia.org/Fifth_Schedule.htm
4. Killings on Dec16,2000: http://www.saanet.org/kashipur/articles/pop.htm
5. Judicial enquiry that cleared the government and the company: http://www.saanet.org/kashipur/articles/sudhir.htm
6. Information on "UAIL Go Back" - A film on the Kashipur movement: http://www.saanet.org/alcant/