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
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.