First Gram Sabha held in Niyamgiri, mining opposed

Rayagada: The tribal residents at the first Gram Sabha in Rayagada district on Thursday opposed the bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills for Vedanta's refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
"The villagers opposed the bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills. They fear adverse impact of mining on their cultural and religious rights," Rayagada District Judge Sarat Chandra Mishra, who has been named supervisor for a series of Gram Sabhas in the district, said after the Sabha at Serkapalli village.
Asked whether any of the 36 members present at the Sabha supported bauxite mining at the hills, the district judge said "All are opposed to mining as tribals worship the hill as their presiding deity." 
Of the 46 Gram Sabha members of Serkapalli village, 36 including 16 women attended it as per the April 18 direction of the Supreme Court.
The apex court had said that the tribals should decide whether bauxite mining should be allowed at Niyamgiri.
The proceedings were video recorded as per the guidelines framed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
"Why should we allow bauxite mining on the chest of our God (Niyam Raja)?" asked a villager.
"We fear danger to natural springs due to the mining," said Kumuti Majhi, convenor of the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti, a tribal body spearheading the campaign against mining in Niyamgiri.
The Serkapalli Gram Sabha was the first of the 12 to be held in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, official sources said.
The next Gram Sabha would be held at Kesarpadi on July 22.
The state government had earlier identified 12 hill villages where the Gram Sabhas would be held within three months of the Supreme Court order.
While five villages were located in Kalahandi district, another seven villages were in Rayagada district.