UK-based company devastating communities in India, says new Amnesty report.

An alumina refinery operated by a subsidiary of UK-based FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources in Orissa, India, is causing air and water pollution that threatens the health of local people and their access to water, says a new report from Amnesty International today (Tuesday 9 February).

“We used to bathe in the river but now I am scared of taking my Children's rights there. Both my sons have had rashes and blisters.” a local woman told Amnesty International. The organisation recorded many similar accounts from people living around the Lanjigarh refinery. Imminent plans for a six-fold expansion of the refinery will compound these problems.

Call on the Indian Government to stop Vedanta's plans

A government regulatory authority, the Orissa State Pollution Control Board, has documented air and water pollution from the refinery yet there has been no health monitoring. Information on the extent of pollution and its possible effects has not been shared with local communities.

Another Vedanta subsidiary plans to mine bauxite in the nearby Niyamgiri Hills. The proposed mine could destroy the entire way of life of the indigenous Dongria Kondh community. They have depended on the hills for centuries for their water, food, livelihoods and cultural identity. The Dongria Kondh do not cut trees or cultivate the top of the hill as they believe that their deity Niyam Raja Penu lives there. Now they face the prospect of a 700-hectare open-cast mine in their holiest place.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“People have a right to water and to a healthy environment but Vedanta has failed to respect these rights in Orissa.

“Villagers were given scant and misleading information about the potential impact of the alumina refinery and mining project. Today they are living in the shadow of a massive refinery, breathing polluted air and afraid to drink from and bathe in a river that is one of the main sources of water in the region.

“The Indian government is responsible for protecting the rights of its people, but that doesn’t absolve Vedanta from responsibility for the damage that it is causing people. Vedanta must ensure that its existing operations respect human rights before considering any expansion.”

Amnesty International is calling on Vedanta Resources to address urgently the human rights and environmental impacts of their alumina refinery and to commit not to expand the refinery or begin mining until existing problems are resolved. Amnesty International is also calling on the Indian authorities to set up a process to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the Dongria Kondh before allowing mining to proceed.

The organisation is asking people to go to www.amnesty.org.uk to take action on the case.

Vedanta has also failed to act upon the findings of UK complaints mechanism regarding its proposed bauxite mine. The UK National Contact Point (NCP) - the UK authority responsible for examining breaches of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises – found on 25 September 2009 that Vedanta Resources had “failed to engage the Dongria Kondh in adequate and timely consultations about construction of the mine…” According to the NCP, it “could not find any record of the views of the Dongria Kondh about the construction of the bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri Hills ever having been collected and/or taken into consideration by the company.”

The alumina refinery in Lanjigarh is operated by Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. Vedanta Resources owns 70.5 per cent of Vedanta Aluminium and Sterlite India Ltd. owns the remaining 29.5 per cent. Vedanta Resources owns 59.9 per cent of Sterlite India and has management control of the company. The mining project will be operated by a joint venture, South-west Orissa Bauxite Mining Corporation, involving Sterlite India (74 per cent) and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (26 per cent).

Amnesty International researchers visited the Lanjigarh area and the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa in February/March and September 2009. They carried out one-to-one interviews and focus group discussions with community members across eight villages in the Lanjigarh area and with men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from the Dongria Kondh and other Adivasi communities in 19 hamlets in the Niyamgiri Hills.

  • Read the full report: 'Don't mine us out of existence' /em> (PDF)
  • Find out more about Vedanta's operations in India /li>
  • View photos from our demonstration outside Vedanta offices in London /li>
  • Watch a clip of the protest outside Vedanta offices /li>

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