Keonjhar tribals up in arms over mining plans in Khandadhar

KEONJHAR: Fear of displacement stalks tribals inhabiting Banspal block of Keonjhar district abutting the beautiful Khandadhar waterfall with hundreds of companies, including South Korean steel behemoth Posco, applying for lease to mine the Khandadhar hill. A Niyamgiri-type agitation (against Vedanta in Lanjigarh) is already on in the area.

Sources said only two mines, owned by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), are operating in Malangtoli region near the hill as of now. Posco has applied for mining lease (ML) over an area close to the waterfall. The hill is about 65 km from Keonjhar. On the opposite side of the hill there is another waterfall by the same name in Banei sub-division of Sundergarh district, where too tribals are protesting against the proposed mining activities.

According to the information obtained from mining department through an RTI query, about 219 prospecting licence (PL) applications are pending with it. Companies and individuals have applied for lease over 1,31,406.8881 hectare of land in 52 villages. Similarly, about 237 ML applications on 1,43,895.2357 hectare are pending with the department. According to the department, no ML has been granted to any company as yet. “Only eight companies have been granted PL in the vicinity of Khandadhar hill,” said Keonjhar mining officer D K Parija.

Surrounded by dense forests, the area is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of tribals, mostly Bhuyans, as they depend on it for their livelihood. They have united under the banners of Khandadhara Surakshya Mancha and Lok Sangathan and have been fighting to save the forest and their livelihood.

“We depend on the forest for our livelihood for over six months a year. Medicinal plants, streams, wildlife, a temple and the beautiful waterfall will be destroyed if mining is allowed here,” said Radhakant Dehury, a Bhuyan tribal of Kadakala area. Mining will not only lead to heavy pollution but also damage the Shiva temple, worshipped by thousands of locals, he said.

[Source — The Times of India]


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