More than 100 grassroots protesters gathered at the Lincoln Centre where the AGM was held. They carried placards depicting shocking pictures of Vedanta’s atrocities including the 100 dead at the Korba chimney collapse in 20091 and shouted slogans calling for the arrest of Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal for the hundreds of workers deaths and murders Vedanta is implicated in and shouted ‘blood on your hands!’. They called for London to withdraw support for the company accused by CBI’s Richard Lambert and the British parliament for giving the FTSE 100 a bad name. Despite these scandals Agarwal gave himself a 16% pay rise this year. There was a noticeable absence of NGOs at the demonstration this year, though the grassroots groups managed to draw larger crowds than ever.
Two activists dressed as Vedanta executives and holding Vedanta’s Annual report spilled litres of red paint over a woman covered with a white sheet on the steps of the AGM. Shortly afterwards Anil Agarwal and Vedanta executives arrived in a blacked out car and were unable to enter the AGM, while others trailed the red paint into the building. The symbolic action referred to the hundreds who have died either working at or opposing Vedanta’s factories and mines. In response the protesters chanted ‘murderer!’ and surrounded Anil Agarwal’s car. Before long riot vans of police with tasers arrived to blockade the entrance to the building. Later when a woman was sent to clean up the fake blood with a dustpan and brush the group chanted ‘Vedanta – clean up your own mess!’ and ‘stop the cover up!’ drawing the parallel with the many incidents in which Vedanta has washed its hands of its own atrocities.
This report from Southern Africa Resource Watch, one of the organisations on the ground in Zambia, was written for Foil Vedanta for the 2012 Vedanta AGM demonstration. It reveals the ongoing pollution of groundwater for hundreds of people in the Shimulala community near Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines.
SHIMULALA COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION BY KCM
One of our partners on the ground and very active in Chingola and Chililabombwe towns of the Copper belt province where Vedanta operates as Konkola Copper Mines, Catholic Diocese of Ndola coordinated an activity which we were involved and this activity brought together the following organisations both from the Government and Non Governmental Organisations such ;
The event was held on the 1st December 2011, it was as a result of complaints from the community about pollution the stream and the environment generally by KCM.
The Shimulala community is located near the Kafue River and due to its proximity to the mine operations; the community has had a number of problems to do with their habitation.
The Kafue river in Chingola on many occasions has been heavily polluted by Konkola copper mines (KCM), and the river being the main source for domestic and farming water to the community, the situation has been worsened and poverty is looming , the river today has basically no form of living life in the waters river and due to the same pollution the community is not able to draw water for any use from this source.
The population of the community is approximately one hundred and twenty five (125) households living in the area and most of them survive on farming to sustain themselves. Transport to the area is quite hard to reach as many have to walk long distances to get to where they want to go. The area gets its name from the Shimulala stream which connects to the Kafue River.
The meeting was called to ensure that the alternative water source for the people was in line with both national and international health standards , this was further aimed at assessing the performance of the water boreholes constructed by KCM, the initiative instead of solving the water pollution they created more health related problems . The boreholes are rarely used by the community because they contain Copper, Iron, Acid and other minerals from underground as you may see in the picture below.
(This is a picture of running water being pumped from one of the pumps in the Shimulala community. With the rainy season around most of the community draw rain water as a clean source of drinking, cooking, bathing and washing water)
Vedanta plc is a London listed FTSE100 company which has brought death and destruction to thousands. It is owned by billionaireAnil Agarwal and his family through companies in various tax havens. It has been consistentlyfought by people’s movements but it is being helped by the British government to evolve intoa multi-headed monster and spread across India and round the world, diversifying into iron inGoa, Karnataka and Liberia, Zinc in Rajasthan, Namibia, South Africa and Ireland, copper inZambia and most recently oil in the ecologically fragile Mannar region in Sri Lanka.
In Odisha, India:
Vedanta’s bauxite mining and aluminium smelters have left more than tenthousand displaced people landless, contaminated drinking water sources with ‘red mud’ and fly ash,and devastated vast tracts of fertile land in an area which has seen famine every year since 2007.Vedanta’s mine on the sacred Niyamgiri hills has been fought by Adivasi (indigenous)-led people’smovements for seven long years and has so far been stopped. This has rendered their subsidiaryVedanta Aluminium (VAL) a loss making company, starving it’s refineries at Jharsuguda and Lanjigarhof local bauxite.
Vedanta’s Sesa Goa subsidiary has been accused of large scale fraud and illegal mining.In June 2009 following a pit wall collapse which drowned Advalpal village in toxic mine waste, a 9year old local boy Akaash Naik filed a petition to stop the mine and mass protests later that yearhalted mining at one of Sesa Goa’s sites. In 2011 there were more major mine waste floods. In SouthGoa a 90 day road blockade by 400 villagers succeeded in stopping another iron ore mine. Sesa Goaare paying ‘silence funds’ to try and prevent similar action at their South Goa mine.
In Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin:
Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite has flouted laws without remorse, operatingand expanding without consent, violating environmental conditions, and illegally dumping toxiceffluents and waste. In 1997 a toxic gas leak hospitalised 100 people sparking an indefinite hungerstrike by a local politician and a ‘siege on Sterlite’ that led to 1643 arrests. Later that year a kilnexplosion killed two. An estimated 16 workers died between 2007 and 2011. Police recorded mostworkers deaths as suicides. Pollution Control Boards, judges and expert teams have on severaloccasions reversed damning judgements of the company, demonstrating large scale corruption andbribery. Activists are waging a court battle which has stopped operations for several short periods.
In Tamil Nadu, Mettur:
Vedanta bought MALCO ‘s aluminium complex at Mettur 2 yearsbefore permission for their Kolli Hills bauxite mines expired but continued to mine illegally for 10years. Five adivasi villages were disturbed and a sacred grove destroyed before activist’s petitionsstopped mining in 2008. Without local bauxite and with protests preventing bauxite coming fromNiyamgiri in Orissa the factory at Mettur was also forced to close. However, the abandoned andunreclaimed mines continue to pollute the mountains and a huge red mud dump by the Stanleyreservoir pollutes drinking water and blows toxic dust into the village.
In Chhattisgarh, Korba:
Vedanta bought the state owned BALCO’s alumina refinery, smelter andbauxite mines for ten times less than its estimated value in 2001 despite a landmark 61 day strike byworkers. Since then wages have been slashed and unionised workers are losing jobs. In 2009 afactory chimney collapsed, BALCO claimed 42 were killed, but in fact 60 – 100 people are stillmissing. Witnesses claim these workers from poor families in neighbouring states are buriedunderground in the rubble, which was bulldozed over immediately after the collapse.
Vedanta 2012 AGM
28 August 2012 2.00 pm
Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3ED