Resist The State-Corporate Nexus To Plunder Natural Resources: Lessons From Niyamgiri And KG Basin

Posted on August 9, 2013 in Environment

By Syed Essam Rashid:

When the Ambani brothers decided to part ways after their father’s death, the whole nation was gripped into the tussle over who will get what. At the center of the contentious issues was the KG basin. Neither wanted to let it go. Amidst all this, what everyone forgot was that the KG basin and the natural gas underneath were still the property of the Government, us. RIL had only been granted permission for exploration and production.

dongaria kondh

So, why was this basin so important? The obvious answer: profit, lots of it.

The gas price for the gas being produced from the KG basin has come under intense scrutiny. In 2007, the Government agreed to a gas price of $4.2 for the KG basin which was based on a formula computed by, Reliance! Till 2008, ONGC was being paid $1.83 per unit of gas. The fact is $4.2 per unit of gas was the highest price that anybody has received anywhere for natural gas. The price has now been increased to $8.4 and a committee is looking into a demand from RIL for $14.2!

What is shocking here is the compliance of the Government to the demands of RIL. When the Government has been demanding an increase in gas production, it has decreased from the basin. Reliance has now pegged it at 20% of the previously estimated production. This might hint at the reason behind the conspicuous browbeaten attitude of the Government.

This gives us an insight into the extent of the impact the corporates have over our country and its natural resources. When 67% of our population lives below $2 per day, our economy is precariously in their hands.

While the Government cowers, a tribe in the forests of Odisha overcame an imminent takeover of their land by a London based mining company, Vedanta. Vedanta had been intent on constructing an open-cast bauxite mine on their land, worth $2 Billion. Only the land that they were to destroy was the tribes sacred Niyamgiri mountains. ‘The mountain is our temple and God‘, they said

Vedanta, blatantly flouting the norms and without obtaining consent from the tribals, rushed ahead with the project. What followed was unfulfilled promises, dislocation of families, loss of livelihood, pollution of water resources and threats. Yet, the Dongria tribe refused to relent. Helped on by Survival and various NGOs, they fought 10 years for their religious, community and individual rights.

Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in April this year, affirming the rights of the tribes, directed the local gram sabhas to take a decision on whether the project could go forward or not.

Till now, 9 villages have voted, all of them against the project.