Lafarge cement is expanding in India with major environmental and social impacts.
One of the resistance sites against this company is in a small confederacy of villages in the east khasi district of Meghalaya state in North East India. The Lafarge Surma Cement (LSC), a joint venture between the Lafarge Group of France and Cementos Molins of Spain, is the first project under the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) as program promoted by ADB. It involves Bangladesh and North East India. A cement plant was established in Chhatak in Sunamgonj district of Bangladesh while the raw materials for this plant are sourced from the Indigenous Khasi people area of Meghalaya state in North East India.
Key problems with this project:• The venture mortgaged the indigenous tribal lands using guarantee, loan and equity from IFC, ADB, and EIB for mining operation – this is an act of uprooting indigenous peoples from their ancestral land;
• The mining operation that takes place on these tribal lands, which are forest and agricultural lands, is illegal for it has been happening without approved environmental impact assessment clearance;
• The livelihood coming from the forest, agricultural land and other resources from their ancestral land is being damaged; water has been polluted, fisheries stock have depleted, fish migration has been disrupted and standing forest has been felled;
• The illegal mining not only adversely affects our customs and traditions due to economic and social displacement , it also fuels further internal conflicts (i.e. division between and among local institutions and community structures and heightens fear of military reprisal).
Our take and calls for the decision maker s and other actors involved (inc. the Finance and Environment Ministries of India, the Supreme Court, the IFIs and the La Farge Company) are the following:• Communities are calling for land reparation and return, which is an ancestral land recognized by Indian Constitution but was mortgaged to the company using Bank money (loan and equity). See: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/supreme-court-upholds-mining-banlafarge/390135/
• The Supreme Court of India ruled last 26 April 2010 rejecting the plea of the central government to allow Lafarge, the French mining giant, to resume mining in Meghalaya, Northeast India. It also ordered a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
• People on the ground see this ruling in their favor although the fight to get their lands back and get restitution (given the environmental and livelihood damages) is far from over and the Court does not include it in its purview, not yet and it is pending in the High Court. But groups want to make use of the Court decision as a leverage, a tool to demand accountability from the Banks – also to fill the vacuum of the court ruling.
• Challenge now is that the 4 Banks, including the IFC have written to the Finance and Environment Ministries of India to request the Lafarge company resume its activities on the indigenous peoples’ land, making claims of economic losses and bilateral strains between India and Bangladesh over cross-border infrastructure project for the closure.