Saturday, February 16, 2008

‘Naxals prey on mine-rich states’

The major mineral producing districts in India are also the poorest and the most underdeveloped districts of the country. Forty per cent of the mineral-rich districts are Naxal-affected, said a report prepared by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), released in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

According to the CSE report titled, “Rich Lands, Poor People,” of the top 50 mineral producing districts, as many as 34 fall under the 150 most backward districts identified in the country.

Besides, three states with substantial dependence on minerals - Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh - are today characterised by low per capita income, lower growth rates and higher levels of poverty and food insecurity.

While 19 districts out of the total 22 are identified as backward in Jharkhand, in Orissa 27 districts out of the total 30 are backward and in Chhattisgarh as many as 15 out of the total 16 districts are backward.

Trying to relate mining with poverty, the CSE report cites the example of Orissa’s Keonjhar district which produces almost 21 per cent of India’s iron ore, but here more than 60 per cent people are below poverty line (BPL) and it’s ranked 24 th out of the 30 districts in the state in Human Development Index (HDI).

Similar is the case of another Orissa district, Jajpur. Jajpur produces 95 per cent of India’s chromite.

Ironically, it's ranked 22nd out of the 30 districts of Orissa in the HDI.

Speaking to journalists, CSE director Sunita Narain said, another big problem in the mining areas has been the growing Naxal menace.

“Our study detected that 40 per cent of the top 50 mineral rich districts in the country are today affected by Naxalism. It's also a fact that the Naxals are gradually targeting mining establishments,” she said.

While there are controversies surrounding industrial displacement, the CSE report shows that between 1950 and 1991, mining displaced about 2.6 million people in India from which less than 25 per cent have been rehabilitated so far.

Associate director of CSE, Chandra Bhusan, said, “There has been no complete data on any agency on displacement due to mining. However, in most of the cases forest clearance and environmental clearances are granted despite the fact that public hearings have gone against the projects.”

The CSE report has made extensive analysis of environment degradation and pollution due to mining, wherein it has said, in 2005-06 alone 1.6 billion tonnes of waste and overburden from coal, iron ore, limestone and bauxite have added to environment pollution.

With the annual growth of mining at 10.7 per cent and 500-odd mines awaiting approval of the Centre, the pollution would increase manifold in the coming years.

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