24th Feb, 2021: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), along with the other undersigned civil society groups, movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens came together to write to the Union Environment Minister, Union Tribal Affairs Minister and the Chief Minister, Odisha, calling upon them to immediately intervene and halt all mining activities in the already heavily polluted Kulda Mines area, in the Sundargarh district. They appealed to put a stop to the clearance process for further expansion until all environmental compliances are in place and withdraw pending charges against the villagers protesting the mining expansion.
[The full text of the letter and list of signatories are below]
The letter was written in the context of the arrest of 16 Adivasi activists and leaders for protesting, along with 5,000 villagers, the recent recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF & CC for a further expansion of the Kulda Mines. The committee made the recommendation despite severe opposition from the affected local Adivasi communities living in 45 villages, many of them belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Although those arrested were bailed out after a few days, fellow activists convey concerns about physical assaults by police, death threats and even false charges of ‘attempt to murder’ under Sec 307 IPC.
The letter to the authorities condemns the suppression of people’s voices and the clear violation of rights and due process implicit in the EAC’s recommendation to expand the mines, as this will further adversely impact the health and livelihoods of the people and the environment in the villages surrounding the mine.
The authorities have been called upon to immediately:
1. Withdraw all pending cases against activists and leaders arrested at the Kulda Mine protests, and end the state repression against villagers protesting peacefully.
2. Stop all expansion plans for Kulda Mines and do not undertake any activity in violation of environmental and social-impact norms and without due consent of the people of the region.
3. Halt all existing mining activities at Kulda until compliance with environmental and safety regulations is ensured; mitigation (of pollution) requirements have been satisfied and fair compensation has been disbursed to affected people for all previous losses.
4. Halt all coal and truck movement through the villages and community roads in the vicinity of the mine, for the remaining mining contract. Develop and make use of coal corridors for transportation of coal, and ensure that these do not impact communities and ecologically sensitive and valuable landscapes.
5. Include local communities as equal partners and stakeholders in decision making about mining projects that affect their lives and livelihoods, in Sundargarh, and the rest of Odisha.
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)