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Goldman environment prize for Dongaria Kondhs’ protagonist

Social activist and firebrand anti-displacement protagonist Prafulla Samantra would be the recipient of coveted Goldman Environmental Prize.

Odisha’s Samantra is among the six winners who are to receive this year’s award. Other winners this year include Mark Lopez, United States; Uroš Macerl, Slovenia; Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala; Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Wendy Bowman, Australia.

Since the institution of this prize in 1990, five Indians — Medha Patkar, M.C. Mehta, Rasheeda Bi, Champaran Shukla and Ramesh Agrawal — have won the prize.

The prize citation that recognises Samantra’s orchestrated movement for Dongaria Kandhas’ of land rights said “...historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminum ore mine.”

The Dongria kandhs, one of the most primitive and vulnerable tribes, were facing the threat of displacement from their age-old place of nativity conglomerate as the Odihas government was intent on bauxite mining rights to Vedanta alumina in Niyamgiri hills of Odisha’s Rayagada district. The London-based conglomerate Vedanta was forced to retreat and withdraw its plan to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri as Samantra launched an unarmed battle against the industrial giant. Mobilising the tribals, the resistance movement had put Vedanta on the back foot. Samantra had also taken to legal recourse for restoring the land rights to innocent tribal settlers in Niyamgiri. Samantra, selfless struggle to protect the livelihood stakes of Dongaria Kandhs had won worldwide appreciation.  

“My fight would go on against the pro-industry government policies. Unlawful displacement of people living in forest and mining belts would be resisted by peaceful means”, Samantara said.

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