Worldwide day of action against Vedanta Resources

PRESS RELEASE
GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST VEDANTA RESOURCES PLC (27 JULY)

VENUE/TIME:- AGM OF VEDANTA RESOURCES PLC, THE LINCOLN CENTRE, 18 LINCOLN’S INN FIELDS, LONDON, WC2A 3ED, (nearest Tube- Holborn)
27 JULY 2009, 2.00 pm onwards

STOP THE CULTURAL GENOCIDE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION, DEADLY POLLUTION

The Global Campaign against Vedanta Resources plc will be protesting inside and outside the Annual General Meeting of Vedanta Resources plc at Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED on 27 July 2009 from 2.00 pm onwards. Simultaneous protests will be held worldwide on 27 July, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa and other parts of India and a series of demonstrations, public meetings and rallies will be held in Orissa, Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities from 27 July onwards.
Vedanta Resources is a multinational mining company, listed on the London Stock Exchange whose spectacular rise involves violating Environmental Laws, Human Rights Abuse, Financial scams & Political corruption in Zambia, Armenia, India and other countries where it exploits poorly regulated mining enclaves. Recently Vedanta has announced plans to start mining in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa, India from October 2009 and it aims to increase operations by 6 fold by 2011. Vedanta’s mining in Orissa will have a devastating impact on the fragile Ecosystem of this fertile and vitally important forested mountainous region and the state of Orissa in general. It will lead to a Cultural Genocide of the ancient tribal civilization of the Dongria Kondh and Majhi Kondh tribes, who have lived ecologically sustainable & self sufficient lives for centuries in these mountains. Vedanta’s mining will also lead to severely toxic pollution, diseases, terminal illnesses, destruction of endangered wildlife, damage to the wild elephant population, devastation of crops and arable land and the poisoning and drying up of rivers and streams, which will have catastrophic effects on tens of thousands of people for whom these rivers are crucial lifelines in Kalahandi, one of the most drought prone regions of India.
The Global Campaign against Vedanta Resources plc is spread over several countries and includes over 150 solidarity groups, Grassroots movements, NGOs, activists, intellectuals, academics, students and professionals.
WE DEMAND THE FOLLOWING:-
1. Vedanta should IMMEDIATELY ABANDON PLANS for mining Bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa.
2. PARLIAMENTARY INVESTIGATIONS in the UK and in India into Vedanta’s operations in India and around the world.
3. Vedanta, a UK based company, MUST BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE for the social, environmental and health repercussions suffered by local communities around the world as a result of Vedanta’s callous mining activities. Those who have been affected and abused by Vedanta’s activities MUST BE ENABLED to seek justice in their home countries and/or in the UK.
4. Vedanta Ltd, Regulators, the UK Government and Governments of the mining enclaves MUST IMPLEMENT MORE EFFECTIVE CONTROLS on Vedanta’s operations.
5. Vedanta’s Shareholders and other investors must be MADE FULLY AWARE of the true nature of this mining company they are investing in so that they can make a better informed decision on whether to WITHDRAW THEIR INVESTMENTS from this criminally destructive mining company.

BACKGROUND TO WHY VEDANTA RESOURCES PLC MUST BE STOPPED
After a highly controversial legal case lasting 3 years at The Supreme Court of India, which witnessed some outrageous distortion of facts and a major miscarriage of justice, in April 2009 the Indian Government gave clearance to Vedanta to mine Bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa for the next 25 years. Vedanta plans to start mining Bauxite in October 2009 and aims to increase by 6 fold by 2011.
CRITICAL REASONS WHY WE MUST NOT LET VEDANTA COMMENCE MINING ACTIVITIES IN NIYAMGIRI and leave behind a trail of terrible ENVIRONMENTAL and HUMAN DEVASTATION includes the following:-
· Vedanta’s mining activities will have a catastrophic effect on the fragile Ecosystem of Orissa with over a thousand hectares of prime Evergreen ‘Reserve Forests’ being wiped out, rivers being poisoned, ground water levels falling. Already Vedanta’s Refinery, which has been built on tribal land in Lanjigarh, is critically polluting. Major rivers of Orissa, including River Bansadhara, has already been polluted at its source. Toxic wastes have ruined fertile agricultural lands, polluted air, contaminated drinking & bathing water, & caused severe illnesses in people & wildlife. Mining will compound these effects.
· Hundreds of the local indigenous population have been killed in work and road accident in and around this Refinery because of Vedanta’s criminal negligence. The Community has been violently split and is terrorised by thugs in Vedanta’s pay.
· Niyam Dongar is the most densely forested mountain in the Niyamgiri range. It is home to the ancient civilization of the Dongria Kondh tribe, who have preserved their sacred mountain, prevented deforestation, lived ecologically sustainable & self sufficient lives for centuries.
· Cultural Genocide is imminent with Mass Unemployment and Destitution as farmers, fishermen and forest dwellers will be displaced and abandoned in shanty-towns. Delicate social structure will be torn apart with the collapse of traditional Economic systems, Kinship system, Egalitarian power structures and Religious values. Already displacement and the invasion by an alien industry has led to a sharp rise in illegal liquor shops, fraudulent schemes, drunken violence, wife beatings, suicides, prostitution & serious fractures in the community. Cultural Genocide will also affect Majhi Kondh tribe and will culminate in the destruction of Niyam Dongar, the most sacred mountain of the Kondh tribe and their Lord of Law. The Kondhs perceive the mountains and the forests as their Gods. So their destruction is both an environmental and a cultural atrocity.
· These Bauxite-capped mountains are the reason for the region’s exceptional fertility and bio-diversity. Bauxite, which contains the Aluminium ore, soaks up rainwater, holds this water and releases it to numerous perennial streams and rivers, which are essential Lifelines in Kalahandi, one of the most drought prone regions of India. Removing this Bauxite will be catastrophic for the fragile ecosystem, endangered wildlife and for tens of thousands of people who rely on these rivers.
· If mining starts on Niyamgiri, at least 50 other major mountains are next in line! Already tribal people and ‘Dalits’ (Untouchables) have movements to protect Bapla Mali, Mali Parbat, Deo Mali, Gandhamardan and other mountains in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. BHPBilliton, Alcoa, Rio Tinto, Jindal & Dubai-based companies are poised to set up Bauxite mines.
· In Dec 2000 police opened fire on tribal campaigners, killing three at the Utkal project. While an Inquiry into the police firing was holding up this project Vedanta made its move, building its refinery before applying for permission to mine! Vedanta has repeatedly violated Government Pollution Guidelines, illegally occupied village land, criminally started construction work without Environmental Clearance, dumped toxic pollutants into rivers and cleared ‘Reserve Forest’ land despite valiant efforts by villagers to protect their forests.
· Mountains of North Orissa are some of the last pockets of wild elephants in Eastern India. These majestic animals are being threatened by the rampant mining. Magnificent wildlife, forests, some of the highest waterfalls in India and many tribal cultures are in serious danger of being wiped out forever.

WORLDWIDE REACTIONS & MOVEMENTS
· In early 2009, in a breathtakingly beautiful non-violent protest over 10,000 villagers and concerned citizens held hands to form a 17 kilometre human chain around the Niyamgiri hills.
· On July 9, 2009 Amnesty International stated that “The Indian Government should immediately withdraw the clearance granted to a massive mining project (Vedanta) that threatens the lives and livelihoods of a protected indigenous community living in the Niyamgiri hills.
· Vedanta has been blacklisted by the Norwegian Govt Pension Fund, with its pension fund investments divested in 2007 citing “serious malpractice and contraventions of environment norms and ethics by the Vedanta management in the past wherever they operate” and “human rights violation”. Procedural violations in procurement of environment and forest clearance for mining were cited. The Martin Currie Scottish Trust Fund also withdrew their £2.37m investment in Vedanta in July 2008 on grounds of “environmental and human rights violation.”
· The Orissa State Pollution Control Board has issued more than 3 notices to Vedanta for violating pollution norms at its Refinery and the CEC committee of the Indian Supreme Court submitted several reports highlighting irregularities and corruption in Vedanta and recommending that Environmental Clearance for mining activities should NOT be give. Both Vedanta’s parent company- Sterlite and Vedanta’s subsidiary MALCO have been charged in court with the criminal violation of Environmental laws, callous dumping of toxic wastes and illegal construction.
· Worldwide uproar followed Vedanta being awarded the ‘Golden Peacock Award’ by the World Environmental Foundation (WEF) in 2009. This same award was awarded to Satyam Computers in September 2008 before being withdrawn in January 2009 after senior management and the founder chairman were arrested for fraud. Various concerned citizens wrote a letter to the jurors of this ‘Golden Peacock Award’ voicing their concerns and exposing Vedanta’s activities. In reply the jurors dissociated themselves from Vedanta and said that the prize decision was made beforehand by one Mr Mehra. Mr Mehra is a highly dubious London based corporate guru of whom ‘The Observer’ released an article in May 2003 called ‘The Contradictions of Madhav Mehra’! Hundreds of organisations and individuals wrote to the jury of the ‘The Golden Peacock Award’ and demonstrations were held at the Award ceremony in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Such was the public anger that even the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and other Government officials refused to participate in this Award ceremony.
· In Vietnam, the tribal people of the Central Highlands are being invaded by the world’s top aluminium companies. General Vo Nguyen Giap – a war hero, now aged 97, who helped defeat the French and American invasions – is among a large group of the country’s leading citizens who are opposing this new invasion by mining companies. Scientists are prominent in the campaign. In Peru’s Amazon region opposition against oil extracting companies gained worldwide attention after a blockade by about 30,000 people was met by severe police violence on 5-6 June 2009, which killed at least 85 Indians. In Nigeria the assault on indigenous communities involved the outrageous ‘execution’ of writer and environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa, who was non-violently opposing multinational oil companies. In the Phillipines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Burma, Tibet etc mining, oil and logging companies are destroying forest simultaneously with the livelihood of the indigenous peoples. Scientists believe that Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico could be due to the horrendous pollution spread by the big meat companies. In Western Australia, Erin Brockovich, the famous Environmental lawyer is representing the local community against Aluminium giant Alcoa after an outbreak of respiratory illnesses.
· We need to understand that the Financial Crisis, Global Warming & Pandemics are linked to these exploitive industries, which pollute callously, devastate crops and arable land, destroys communities & cultures, leads to the loss of rare animals & medicinal plants, death of rivers, infliction of sickness and terminal diseases. All for the sake of a few greedy years of corporate profits. We need to join with the Grassroots movements in India, Vietnam, Peru and other countries in opposing these monstrously destructive corporations and in choosing genuinely sustainable development, which will be genuinely beneficial for the local communities and be ecologically sustainable for many generations to come.

CONTACT DETAILS:-
GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST VEDANTA,
Samarendra Das- sdasorisa@hotmail.co.uk, sdasorisa@rediffmail.com
Felix Padel- felixorisa@yahoo.com
Agrotosh Mookerjee- whatculture@yahoo.co.uk
Phone- (+44) 07528435541
Miriam Rose- welliebird7@hotmail.co.uk

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