This article appeared in the Guardian (UK) on February 8, 2010.
The Dongria Kondh say the plot of James Cameron’s blockbuster reflects their plight as they struggle to stop company from opening bauxite mine on sacred mountain.
The Dongria Kondh tribe from eastern India today appealed to film director James Cameron to help them stop controversial mining company Vedanta from opening a bauxite mine on their sacred land as they believe that he will understand their plight better than most.
Like the Na’vi tribe in Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar who are desperately trying to stop humans from mining under their sacred ‘home tree’ in Pandora, the Dongria Kondh are trying to stop Vedanta from opening its mine on the mountain they worship.
Vedanta plans to construct an open-cast mine on Niyamgiri mountain in Orissa state which activists believe will destroy the area’s ecosystem and threaten the future of the 8,000-strong Dongria Kondh tribe, who depend on the hills for their crops and water and who believe the mountain and surrounding forest to be a sacred place.
Stephen Corry, director of the charity Survival, which campaigns on behalf of indigenous people, said: “Just as the Na’vi describe the forest of Pandora as ‘their everything’, for the Dongria Kondh, life and land have always been deeply connected. The fundamental story of Avatar – if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids – is being played out today in the hills of Niyamgiri.
“Like the Na’vi, the Dongria Kondh are also at risk, as their lands are set to be mined by Vendanta Resources who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. The mine will destroy the forests on which the Dongria Kondh depend and wreck the lives of thousands of other Kondh tribal people living in the area.”
In an advert in Hollywood entertainment magazine Variety, the Dongria Kondh said: “Appeal to James Cameron. Avatar is fantasy … and real. The Dongria Kondh tribe in India are struggling to defend their land against a mining company hell-bent on destroying their sacred mountain. Please help the Dongria.”