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Dam veto spares Indian tribe

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Feb 1, 2011
A government veto of plans to build a $140 million dam has given a reprieve to a dwindling aboriginal tribe in southern India, human rights advocates said.

The Kadars, who live on the borders of the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, have survived pestilence, extreme exploitation and even mass sterilizations, Inter Press Service reported Tuesday. P. Gopakumar, a Malayali author, says the government is guilty of sponsoring violence against the tribal society in the name of the dam, IPS reported.

Joy Kaitharam of the Human Rights Protection Center in Thrissur, India, which advocates on behalf of indigenous people, said atrocities have been inflicted on the tribe, including the forcible sterilization of 87 Kadars in 1976.

"Today, Kadar men are tortured by officials on charges of forest theft and for agitating against the dam," Kaitharam told IPS.

The proposed hydroelectric dam across the Chalakudy River would likely have meant the end for the group, who number only about 1,500.

Ayyan, a member of the tribe, says many community huts would be submerged if the state proceeds with work on the dam.

"We hear the death knell of our beloved river," the 60-year-old said.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest veto of the project is "a major success for the forest and the tribe," environmentalist A. Latha of the River Research Center said.

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