Since 20 July 2012, the on-
going ethnic violence in Assam,
extending over districts Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Chirag, Dhubri and Karbi Anglong (Dima Hasao) has left nearly 100 dead and scores injured. The violence between Bodos and minorities has resulted in large scale killings and destruction of homes. The hackings and rampant use of AK-47 rifles is reminiscent of the massacre of fourteen villages of Bengali speaking muslims in Nellie on 18 Feb 1983, when the victims were surrounded, thousands hacked to death, and their homes set on fire. The Nellie incident was probed, the Tribhuvan Prasad Tewary commission submitted a report, but it was never made public. Those responsible for the worst Nellie massacre in independent India were never brought to justice.
Non-Assamese have been settling in Assam since the days of the East India Company, the British government in India, and the inception of the tea plantations. As the violence recurs, the agitationists have been convincing the local Assamese and tribals that because of the immigrants, refugees and the Nepalese, the lands in Assam had been alienated to the non-Assamese and non-tribal people. Schools in Assam’s affected districts have been forced to shut down, as the strife escalates. Many of the schools have been converted to relief camps for thousands of Bodo and minority community refugees. School classrooms are housing paramilitary forces. Nearly 400,000 people belonging to the Bodo and Muslim communities have been forced to shift to 273 temporary refugee camps. Over 520 villages have been torched to the ground. Of the four lac people displaced, two thirds are muslims. Suspected ULFA militants, belonging to the anti-talk faction of the banned group, led by Paresh Barua, have been detonating IED explosives in Goalpara district triggered by ethnic violence, several vehicles are being torched in Rangiya area of Kamrup rural district.
The Union Government of India has given provisional clearance for coal mining in new areas located in states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jhar-khand, part of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra. The new coal mining areas are part of India’s largest contiguous tiger landscape. 35% of the 1700 Indian tigers left in the wild, are in the forests of Central India, where there are leopards and elephants too. Several indigenous communities depend on the forests for their livelihoods. A total of 1,140,000 hectares of standing forest overlap the proposed coal fields. Over 354,000 hectares of forest lies within the 10 km buffer of a protected area. The endangered tiger inhabits a significant chunk of the thirteen coal fields. Connecting corridors the Bandhavgarh–Sanjay–Palamu Tiger Reserve belt, corridors between Palamau–Lawalong–Hazaribagh, between Tadoba and Bor-Umred-Karandla, between Pench and Bor, between Pench and Satpura, between Tadoba and Kawal, between Tadoba and Chaprala/Indrarati, and between Satkosia George and Simlipal will be either severed or heavily disturbed by coal mining and related infrastructure. All forest areas in Mahan and the thirteen coalfield areas will be axed, as the Planning Commission expects India’s coal consumption to double by 2032, to feed India’s requirement of electricity generation. Coal imports involve high costs, and the bulk of the demand for coal is required to be met through domestic coal production.
Refinery in Malaysia
Ninety percent of rare earths mineral mining occurs in China. Lanthanum and Neodymium rare earths have applications in technologies, including hybrid vehicles and phones, and other mobile devices. Australia’s Lynas Corporation is trying to complete the first rare earths refining plant, in Malaysia, which would be the first rare earths plant to be built outside China, in thirty years. Lynas will ship the ore from a mine in Western Australia, to the Malaysian port of Kuantan in the state of Pahang. The ore will be transported from Kuantan in a truck, to the small fishing township and beach resort, Pelangi Balok, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Lynas has sunk $750 million (A $ 750 million) over three years in the Pelangi Balok Refinery Plant.
The Refinery plan has been dogged by environmentalist protesters, led by firebrand environment activists like Wong Tack. Malaysia’s economy is heavily skewed towards exports many of them electronics, which are sent to China for reprocessing. Lynas and the Malaysian government feel that the project could generate earnings equivalent to about 1% of Malaysia’s GDP. The environmentalists are focusing on what happens to waste material from the refinery. Dumping of radio active material in Malaysia is becoming an important issue for the next national elections in the country.
In 2010, China had lowered its export quota of rare earths by about a third. Rare earth prices have been soaring since then, and concerns over China’s dominance in the sector escalating. Rare earth is a group of seventeen minerals, with high tech uses, ranging from personal computers to advanced weaponry. Recently China has invited foreign companies in USA, Japan and Europe to team up with local Chinese firms on rare earth technology ventures, particularly on environment friendly projects .
Vol. 45, No. 11, Sep 23 -29 2012
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