The fight to save Nature from Mining, by the indigenous of Odisha

The indigenous of Odisha have been on the forefront to defend the abundant nature against the ravages of mining in the state since a decade. From the tribals at the foothills of Niyamgiri hills to the village residents in the plains of Bolangir near the lower Suktel dam, have been fighting the government and industries to protect their gods who reside in jungles and their only means of survival – the nature.

Since 2005, the 30,000 indigenous people of Sundergarh, including the reclusive Pauri Bhuyan community have fought mining companies from destroying the Khandadhar hills and the waterfall which sit on Odisha’s third largest iron ore reserve.

Video Volunteers brings you an old video from the Odisha archives that show how the indigenous people, living in about 100 villages around the hills had organised protests to resist mining companies from being activated in the area. “These hills are the adobe of our goddess Kanteshwari. Nature is our source of livelihood and the waterfall feeds our fields. We are children of these lands. We will give up our lives but will not give up Khandadhar hills,” says Udayanath Mudari, a local activist. 

Khandadhara in Odiya means ‘Sword-flow’, a fitting name to the spectacular waterfall cascading down a mountain face. At about 750 feet height, the waterfall is among India’s highest – and ranks among the country’s little-known natural wonders.

These movements worth a decade, by the people of Sundergarh, successfully fought off the South Korean company POSCO in 2015. The victory proclaimed the collective power of the indigenous, the victory was short-lived. While POSCO was out of the picture, today these mining activities in the Sundergarh district are undertaken by the state government-owned Odisha Mining Corporation Ltd (OMCL).

Anthropologists have established a genetic link between the Pauri Bhuiya tribe, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, and the Jarawa tribe of Andaman, an ancient, reclusive tribe that lives on the island. These tribes have been in existence since around 24,000 years ago. Today, the Pauri Bhuiya are afraid that they face extinction due to the mining and environmental exploitation of their homes. In an interview with Down to Earth magazine, the members of Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti, a coalition of 40 panchayats in Sundargarh district, stated that mining in the entire region will consume the villages, forests and water resources within the 10 km radius of the mountain.

The residents of the region already allege that OMCL has been illegally extracting water from the source of the waterfall to feed its mining operations and huge townships. The water from the waterfall is the live-source of thousands of people living in the region.

The indigenous have been at the forefront of all environmental movements across the world, saving Mother Nature from the hands of exploitative governments and individuals. These people have played an important part in preserving the forests and maintained ecological balance. While indigenous win few battles are won, many wars lost, putting their existence on the line. Should these losses just be treated as a consequential sacrifice to the development of the nation? If the natural resources of the country are exploited to the limits of no-return, what kind of water, air and land will our future generations inherit?

This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Bideshini Patel.

Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.

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