Press Release 15-2-2015
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the Government revoke the lease granted to Singam Bhavani for mining of laterite in an extent of 35.84 hectares (86.05 acres) near Asanagiri village of Sarugudu panchayat, Nathavaram mandal in the Agency region of Visakhapatnam district. We urge the District Collector, who is custodian of the Constitutional rights of adivasis, to immediately intervene and cancel the public hearing for the proposed project slated for February 19 at Sundarakota village. Not doing so would amount to a mockery of the environmental clearance regime.
A three-member HRF team visited Asanagiri on Saturday and spoke with local residents who are adivasis of the Bagata and Konda Dora communities. They have vibrant farming consisting principally of cashew, paddy and fruit bearing trees apart from collection and sale of various minor forest produce. This livelihood will be destroyed if mining takes place. The project will also affect the adivasis’ religious and cultural rights since their dieties Gangalamma Thalli and Jagaramma Devatha fall in the mining lease area.
The region is notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution and the area in and around the mine lease zone is reserve forest. Both these salient facts have been suppressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. The proposed project and the notification of the public hearing are in brazen violation of statutory rights meant for protection of adivasis and the Vth Schedule region. Even the public hearing notification in respect of the place of venue and time given is ambiguous and flawed.
In fact, the EIA report put out by the project proponent report is a sham. Assessments trotted out in the EIA report are highly dubious, riddled with a number of inconsistencies and misrepresentations. For instance it is stated in the report that there is no forest in the proposed mine lease area. This is a brazen falsehood. The whole area stretching from Sundarakota village in the east to K Doddugula and Asanagiri through to Bhamidika to the south and Rajavommangi to the west in East Godavari district is abundantly green with dense forest. Besides, there are many perennial streams in the area that are a source of sustenance. The claim that the proposed project’s impact on ecology will be insignificant is absolutely untenable.
The proposed mining violates a number of Constitutional safeguards meant for protection and strengthening of forest ecology and adivasi livelihood. These include the Forest Conservation Act, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. These facts have been brought to the notice of concerned authorities but they have so far failed to act upon them.
Holding a public hearing in the face of such brazen statutory violations and glaring anomalies will amount to a meaningless exercise. The proposed project entails unacceptable environmental and human livelihood costs in a highly sensitive eco-system.
HRF believes that there is a powerful laterite mining lobby consisting of non-tribal benamis which is pushing through these projects. They are going about their operations in open contempt of the law with active assistance from officials and politicians. Their operations stretch from Sankavaram mandals of East Godavari district to Nathavaram mandal in Visakhapatnam Agency. We demand that the government put on hold all these mining proposals and initiate a comprehensive enquiry into the matter.
(HRF general secretary, AP and TS)