Ranchi, March 28, 2008
India’s richest lands – with minerals, forests, wildlife and water
sources – are home to its poorest people. Mining in India has, contrary to government’s claims, done little for the development of the mineral-bearing regions of the country: says the latest publication from New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) – its 356-page 6th State of India’s Environment Report, titled Rich Lands, Poor People -- Is Sustainable Mining Possible?
The report was released here today by Syed Sibtey Razi, the governor of the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand. The release was followed by a panel discussion by experts.
“If India’s forests, mineral-bearing areas, regions of tribal habitation and watersheds are all mapped together, they will overlay one another on almost the same areas,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE, speaking at the release function. The CSE report echoes her: “The three tribal-dominated states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh are the most productive mineral-bearing states as well; also, the forest cover in these states is far higher than the national average,” it says.
But for all its mineral wealth, the state performs very poorly in terms of human development indicators. Almost 44 per cent of Jharkhand’s population is below poverty line. Jharkhand, in fact, has the second highest number of poor people (after Orissa) in the country. The state also has a very high percentage of households without food sufficiency. Only 50 per cent of Jharkhand’s people have access to safe drinking water; and just half the population is literate.
The CSE report paints a horrific picture of the devastation that has been wrought by mining in the country. The statistics are shocking:
• Between 1950 and 1991, mining displaced about 2.6 million people – not even 25 per cent of these displaced have been rehabilitated. About 52 per cent of these displaced were tribals.
• For every 1 per cent that mining contributes to India’s GDP, it displaces 3-4 times more people than all the development projects put together.
• Forest land diversion for mining has been going up. So has water use and air pollution in the mining hotspots. An estimated 1.64 lakh hectare of forest land has already been diverted for mining in the country. Iron ore mining in India used up 77 million tonne of water in 2005-06, enough to meet the daily water needs of more than 3 million people.
“Mining is being promoted in the country for the wrong reason – employment. All state governments justify mining arguing that the sector will provide employment, but this is a chimera. The formal mining industry in India employs just 5.6 lakh people and this number is coming down,” says Narain.
The CSE report uses government’s own data to show how employment has fallen in the mining sector as a whole. It says the modern mining industry does not require people. Between 1991 and 2004, the value of mineral production in India increased four-fold – at the same time, employment plummeted by 30 per cent.
The CSE report points out that mining cannot be sustainable or truly environment-friendly: one, because all ore bodies are finite and non-renewable and two, because even the best managed mines leave “environmental footprints”. But it also concedes that mining and minerals are necessary. Adds Chandra Bhushan “The issue is not whether mining should be undertaken or not. Rather, it is about how it should be undertaken. It is about ensuring that mining is conducted in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner.”
· Shachi Chaturvedi, 098187 50007, firstname.lastname@example.org