The Environment and Forests Ministry will soon take the final call on Vedanta’s mining of Niyamgiri hills, with the Odisha government having sent the gram sabha resolutions to the Centre for a decision.
The Supreme Court directed that the gram sabhas of the affected villages be asked for their consent based on how their cultural rights would be impacted. The Environment Ministry was ordered to take a final call on whether it would allow mining in the forestland under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 based on the consent or rejection by the village councils. In its plea before the Supreme Court, the Union government said the cultural rights of the Dongria Kondh tribals group, which inhabits the area and believes that the hill is a place of worship, should be protected. The apex court agreed with the contention and asked the government to go back to the community on the specific question of cultural and traditional rights of the people.
Following the court orders, the Odisha government organised gram sabha meetings of 12 villages in the two impacted districts. All the villages voted against the project.
The gram sabha resolutions have now been sent by the State government to the Centre to take the final decision.