Thursday, July 30, 2009

Church of England lands in controversy with tribes in Orissa mining project

Church of England has a new challenge now facing in India for its partnership with a multinational mining company which had set up an aluminium refinery in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills.

The Hindus both in India and in abroad now accuse of the Church having double standards over the issue of environment.

Rajan Zed a famous Hindu statesman from Nevada (USA) said that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr.Rowan Williams should clarify where he and his Church stand on the issue of mining by a company in a remote tribal village in the state of Orissa in India.

Zed as the head of Universal Society of Hinduism stressed that the Church of England should practice what it preaches.

The Church is said to have financial stakes with the company that has set up the mine in the tribal region and which the environmentalists describe as devastating to the region.

The Chairman of the Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal had announced the plans of his company to set up a bauxite mine in Niyamgiri hills of the Lanjigarh, Kalahandi District, in Orissa.

The Dongria Kondh tribe opposed the move saying that they consider the mountain sacred.

They also had concerns for the animals and the virgin wilderness in the hills. One of the environmentalists who opposed the move, Bianca Jagger said that the Church of England should disassociate from the company’s mining project in which, it seems, the church has a 4.1 million dollar share.

The British Broadcasting Company quoted her saying, “"I appeal to the Church of England to realize that this mining project not only endangers the culture and beliefs of the tribal community but is also extremely damaging to the environment."

Sitaram is of Kondh tribe and The Action Aid, an environmental organization, is sending him to London to talk to the British in person of the Kondh’s fears on the project so that the concerned people may reverse their decisions.

Before leaving to London Sitaram said,” We cannot live without our God Mountain and the forest and we will continue our peaceful struggle. It is a life and death battle and Kondh people are united on this."

Amnesty International has also got involved in the matter. They have asked the Indian Union Government to withdraw the permission granted to the Company to open the bauxite mine in the hills.

“For centuries the Dongria Kondh community has considered the Niyamgiri Hills sacred; central to their collective identity and religious beliefs. The hills are also essential to their economic and physical survival,The 8,000 strong Dongria Kondh now face an uncertain future,” said Mr.Madhu Malhotra, the deputy director of Amnesty International for Asia Pacefic.

The Church of England has an environmental policy which states, that “The whole creation belongs to God. As human beings we are part of the whole and have a responsibility to love and care for what God has entrusted to us as temporary tenants of the planet. We are called to conserve its complex and fragile ecology, while recognizing the need for responsible and sustainable development and the pursuit of social justice.”

The people, who struggle for a reversal of the decision to open up the mine, now point out this statement and ask the Church to practice what it preaches.

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SIC: IndCath