Niyamgiri mining: Odisha readies for gram sabhas

Bhubaneswar: Finally the stage is set for gram sabhas tomorrow at 12 villages in Niyamgiri hill slopes with the district administrations of Rayagada and Kalahandi receiving objections from locals regarding British firm Vedanta Group’s proposed bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri hills.

While the first palli sabha will be held on Thursday at Serkapadi village in Rayagada district, the process will continue till August 19 in seven villages the district. As per the decision of the State government, gram sabhas will be conducted in five villages of Kalahandi district from July 23 to 30.

Highly placed sources said, the Rayagada district administration has received as many as 129 objections from the people of seven villages while the number stands at eight with the Kalahandi officials, which they received from five villages.

Of the 129 objections, 40 have been filed by individuals and 89 are collective claims, they added.

“We will send all the objections to the village forest committees (VFC) for discussion. After validation in the palli sabhas, these will be sent to the Supreme Court," Rayagada district collector Sashi Bhusan Padhi said.

The Odisha Government, abiding by the April 18 Supreme Court verdict had set July 14 as the last date for receiving objections from the locals regarding the project.

Though a week ago Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL) resumed operations at its alumina refinery plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district after a gap of seven months, which was shut due to short supply of bauxite, excavation of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills is crucial to run the alumina refinery plant.