Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from the good people over at Survival International. It addresses the timely issue of preventing a British mining company from threatening a sacred mountain in the Niyamgiri Hills of India — and the ancestral home of the Dongria Kondh hill tribe. Read about the issue, watch the video and sign the petition to help protect the land.
By Joanna Eede, Survival International
High in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa, India, live the Dongria Kondh people. They call themselves Jharnia, the ‘protectors of streams,’ as for centuries they have cared for the mineral-rich rivers that rise within the surrounding forests.
For the Dongria Kondh, the densely forested mountains of Niyamgiri are the inheritance of their children and the provider of food and shelter. For generations, the Dongria have grown the crops that sustain them and the wild fruit they trade on the hill-side slopes. The hills and forests are also the spiritual focus of their lives, for Niyam Dongar mountain is the seat of their greatest god, Niyam Raja. ‘Niyamgiri is our soul‘, they say.
For the London-based mining company, Vedanta Resources, however, the mountains are nothing more than a highly lucrative source of bauxite, the raw material for aluminium. The company plans to open-pit mine this sacred space in the heart of the Dongria’s homeland.
The Dongria believe that the mine will destroy the forests, disrupt the rivers and pollute and desecrate their lands. And they know that it will spell the end of themselves as a distinct tribe, for separation from ancestral lands is, more often than not, catastrophic for tribal peoples. When control over land is lost, or when tribal peoples are prevented from using it in accordance with their traditions, the long-term mental and physical health of the people suffers hugely.
‘Mining only makes profit for the rich,’ said one Dongria Kondh man. ‘We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money.’
The Dongria are determined to protect their livelihood, their health, their identity and the sanctity of their most religious site.
Sign our petition to show you oppose mining in Dongria Kondh’s hills.
And watch the video.
photo credit: Survival International