Taking a cue from their counterparts at the Niyamgiri hill range, local tribals have vowed not to surrender the Khandadhar hill, known for its prized deposits of high grade iron ore, for mining operations.
The Dongaria Kondhs dependent on the Niyamgiri hills had unanimously trumped the bauxite mining plan in a referendum last year and a similar stand has been echoed by the Pauri Bhuyan tribes of Sundargarh district, home to the picturesque Khandadhar hills.
It may be noted that the state government had recommended prospecting license (PL) over Khandadhar iron ore deposits in favour of Posco India.
Tribals on the occasion of the World Environment day on last Thursday congregated at Budhabhin village under the banner of Khandadhar Surakhya Sangram Samiti (KKSS). Before the public meeting, the local tribals took an oath at the foothills of the Khandadhar waterfall to protect the hill from any destruction till their last breath.
The meeting was presided by KSSS president Jhara Naik.
Addressing the meeting, Prafulla Samantra, president of Lokshakti Abhijan, called upon all the locals to get united to save the Khandadhar from any destruction in the coming future.
Congratulating the newly appointed Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram, Samantra said, “Jual Oram and Laxman Munda (local MLA) have been part of the Khandadhar struggle and are also the main anti-Posco political leaders of the state. We hope that both the leaders will continue their support to the struggle to save Khandadhar.”
“For the last eight years, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) has successfully restricted Posco to start any work at the proposed site and now, the protest of the local people of Khandadhar area against mining would strengthen our struggle against Posco,” said PPSS leader Abhay Sahu.
Sahu promised to extend all support to the tribals in their ongoing struggle to save the Khandadhar hills from mining exploitation. Tribal leaders of KKSS vented their anger against the proposed iron ore mining plan by Posco at Khandadhar. They also resented the ongoing mining operations at Khandadhar hills by state run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), alleging destruction of forests and ecosystem.
They argued that since Khandadhar is the habitat of the Pauri Bhuyan tribals, a Primitive Tribal Group (PTG), both the central and state governments should follow the provisions of Forest Right Act (FRA), 2006 and go by the Supreme Court judgement in the historic Niyamgiri case.