Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

�Orissa�s per capita income has actually declined during the second half of the 1990s — precisely the period when the state went on an industrial overdrive�, says New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in its 356-page 6th State of India�s Environment Report, titled Rich Lands, Poor People — Is Sustainable Mining Possible?– released by Orissa Governor M.C.Bhandare at Bhubaneswar on December 22.

Orissa that accounts for 7 per cent of India�s forests and 11 per cent of its surface water resources, 24 per cent of India�s coal, 98 per cent of its chromites and 51 per cent of its bauxite, has earned the dubious distinction of clearing the maximum amount of forestland for mining in the country, says the report.

But for all its mineral wealth, the state performs very poorly in terms of human development indicators. The state has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.404 — worse than that of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or West Bengal. This is evidenced from the fact that all the mineral-rich districts of the state feature in the list of 150 most backward districts of the country.

In Keonjhar, the most mined district in the state, 62 per cent of the population lives below poverty line.

In Koraput, the bauxite capital of India, 79 per cent live below poverty line.

�Statistics indicate that the income from mineral extraction rarely benefits the regions from where these minerals come — in fact, poverty is increasing in many of these districts,� point out the writers of the report.

Indicating how the State�s hilly terrains, with their natural springs, are being destroyed by mining, the CSE report cites that Orissa�s second largest river, the Brahmani, is one of the 10 rivers in India most polluted �due to the large-scale mining operations on its banks�.

The state�s 6 million strong tribal population has borne the brunt of these environmental impacts in as much as 500,000 people (mostly tribals) in the state have been displaced due to mining, the report states.

It brings out 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.

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.

Mining of major minerals generated about 1.84 billion tonne of waste in 2006 — most of which has not been disposed off properly.

All governments justify mining arguing that the sector will provide employment, but this is a chimera. The report using government data shows how employment has fallen in the mining sector as a whole.

The fact is that the modern mining industry does not require people.

Between 1999 and 2005, the value of mineral production in the state increased three-fold � at the same time, employment reduced by 20 per cent.

�Modern industrial growth requires resources of the region � minerals, water or energy. It does not require people. In other words, it does not necessarily provide local benefits. If it provides employment benefits, it is outside the poor region in which it is based. In other words, inclusive growth will require ways to value local resources � be it water, minerals or energy � so that it gives back more than it takes. The mineral industry degrades the land, uses local water, but does little to return back wealth. Worse, the royalty on minerals goes to state exchequers, not to local communities.�

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