Protests, shutdown in Visakhapatnam against bauxite mining

December 20th, 2011 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Dec 20 (IANS) The union environment ministry’s experts committee arrived in Visakhaptanam Tuesday for public hearing on bauxite mining amid protests and a two-day shutdown in tribal areas of the coastal Andhra district.

Protesters gathered outside the hotel where the committee members checked in, opposing their visit to areas where bauxite mining is proposed to be taken up.

In view of the protests, the committee headed by J.C. Kala, a retired director general of forests and former chairman of National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA), dropped the plan to visit the tribal villages. It would instead hold public hearing in Visakhapatnam city Thursday.

Earlier, Visakhapatnam District Collector Lav Agarwal, who met the committee members at the hotel, told reporters that the panel may not visit the tribal areas. There are also indications that the committee may make an aerial survey of the areas having huge deposits of bauxite.

Leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and other activists raised slogans asking the committee to go back.

Protesting the committee’s visit, various political parties and groups have called for 48-hour shutdown in the tribal areas of the district.

Transport services came to a standstill and educational institutions were closed for the day in the tribal belt of the district. In an attempt to stop the committee from reaching the villages, the protesters erected road blocks by logging trees.

One of the protesters said the bauxite mining would render people homeless in 350 villages in three “mandals (blocks)”, snatch livelihood of farmers and tribal communities.

CPI-M leader Narasinga Rao said there was no need for the committee to again visit the area or conduct a public hearing when people opposing the bauxite mining for the last four years have already made their views clear.

He accused the central government of adopting double standards on the issue.

“On the one hand, Tribal Welfare Minister Kishore Chandra Deo, who is from this region, says he is opposed to bauxite mining while on the other a committee from the central ministry comes on a visit, which is aimed at favouring the private companies,” he said.

Tribals, rights groups and Maoists are opposed to bauxite mining in the agency or tribal areas of Visakhapatnam, which has abundant bauxite reserves.

The bauxite mining is proposed to be taken up in two areas. Under the memorandums of understanding signed by the government with two companies, the ore from Jerrela deposits would be supplied to Anrak Alumina Company through state-owned Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation while the ore from Araku reserve would be supplied to the Jindal company.

The work on the Anrak alumina factory is going on at a brisk pace at Makavarapalem in Visakhapatnam.

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