Tribals of Lakhapadar village in Rayagada district voted against the plan to mine bauxite on Niyamgiri hills, making it the 10th gram sabha to reject the proposal.
Earlier nine gram sabhas- five in Kalahandi and four in Rayagada district had voiced their resistance to the mining plan. The decision of the palli sabha is crucial for running the one million tonne of alumina refinery plant of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) at the Niyamgiri foot hills. VAL was eyeing bauxite supplies from Niyamgiri to feed its refinery.
Amid tight security, as many as 97 voters (39 males and 58 females) of Lakhapadar village under Kalyansinghpur block gave their views against the project. The gram sabha was held under the supervision of the additional and sessions judge, Rayagada S C Mishra.
“The entire Niyamagiri hill range spread across Kalahandi and Rayagada districts is the habitation of Dongaria Kondhs, Kutia Kondhs and other forest dwellers. The people of the area worship the hill as their God. The hills also support the livelihood of a large number of people”, said Lada Sikaka, a Lakhpadar resident and leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha SAamiti (NSS), a committee to safeguard the rights of indigenous tribals.
Sikaka said, the religious, cultural and social rights of the people would be jeopardized if mining is allowed in the hills.
In its April 18 order on the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project (BMP), the Supreme Court (SC) held that if the BMP, in any way, affects the religious rights of Dongaria Kondh, Kutia Kondh and others, especially their right to worship their deity, known as Niyam Raja, in the hill top of Niyamgiri, that right has to be preserved and protected. Two more villages in Rayagada district- Khambesi and Karapada would host the gram sabhas on August 13 and August 19 respectively. NSS, however, said the outcome of these two palli sabhas would be inconsequential since a majority of the villages have already voted against the mining plan.