With chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu making it clear that the state government is keen on permitting bauxite mining in the Visakhapatnam agency area, the opposition for the same is regaining momentum. While the AP government has already launched an exercise to review the stand on the issue, organisations and individuals including tribals who have been opposing the project, are up in arms against the approval.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) during 2005-07 has been kept under abeyance by the UPA-II government in August 2010 following strong objections raised by the then Araku MP V Kishore Chandra Deo and others against mining in the Scheduled Areas in contravention of the Constitution. After he became Union Minister for Tribal Affairs a year later, Deo had asked the State to cancel the MoU.
However, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu who has been treading cautiously to undertake bauxite mining by taking the stakeholders into confidence, left no doubts about his plans during his two-day tour in Visakhapatnam district. The Left parties and NGOs also made no exception in declaring that they were opposing the CM’s decision and wanted the government not to destroy the lives of tribals in the name of development. Green activists are strongly opposing the bauxite mining in the Fifth Schedule areas, stating that it would adversely affect the livelihood of tribal people and destroy the fragile ecosystem of the Eastern Ghats.
In an open letter to the chief minister, the NGOs and other organisations pointed out that during the election campaign, the Telugu Desam Party gave an assurance to shelve the bauxite mining proposal and that there would be no rethinking on the issue. KS Chalam, the convener of the Struggle Committee against the Coastal Corridor, Chalasani Prasad of the Revolutionary Writers’ Association, M Venkateswarlu of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, and several others signed the open letter. They stated that in the agency area of Visakhapatnam district alone, about 10,000 tribal families in 247 tribal villages will be badly affected. Tribals of East Godavari and Vizianagaram districts will also not be spared, they said.
“The bauxite mining would severely damage the fragile ecological system of the Eastern Ghats, from where several rivulets like the Gosthani, Sarada, and others originate. The large-scale water contamination would also cause severe damage even in the plain areas, after these rivulets get affected,” Chalam and other activists stated in the letter. They pointed out that as these rivulets merge with the Godavari river, it would mean contamination of the Godavari as well.
Both the CPI and the CPM ridiculed the government’s decision and pointed out that Chandrababu Naidu himself had opposed the bauxite mining during various agitations organised by political parties. “Did Naidu forget that even the UPA government could not take up the project due to the fierce opposition from various organisations? If the government is adamant, we will not hesitate to intervene to safeguard the tribals,” said CPI state assistant secretary JV Satyanarayana Murthy.
Sources said that the chief minister was against allowing mining by the private companies and hence, the government was seriously exploring various options including allowing public sector company like National Aluminium Company (NALCO) or a special wing under the tribal welfare department. There is no clarity on whether the MoU signed during the Congress regime would be scrapped.
It is learnt that the mining lobby, which was lying low for quite sometime after the UPA-II put in abeyance all clearances accorded to the bauxite mining in the Scheduled Areas of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari, has stepped up its efforts to revive their projects by sourcing the raw material through the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC).