Chhattisgarh: Dense Forest Area Of The Size Of 800 Football Fields Cleared By Environment Ministry For Mining

The Logical Indian Crew Chhattisgarh

February 13th, 2019 / 3:08 PM

Chhattisgarh Coal Mining Forest

Image Credit: Hindustan Times

The Parsa opencast coal mine in Chhattisgarh has received a stage-1 preliminary forest clearance from the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry. The clearance of the forest area in the Surguja and Surajpur districts of the state will be done by the Rajasthan Collieries Limited (RCL) which is listed as a subsidiary of Adani Green Energy Limited on the Bombay Stock Exchange, reported the Hindustan Times.

The Parsa opencast coal mine is located in one of the largest contiguous stretches of very dense forest called Hasdeo Arand. The area of this forest land is 170,000 hectares. Out of this already 841.538 hectares of productive forest land, equalling the size of 800 football fields, has been cleared for mining. Hasdeo Arand has 30 coal blocks.


Back Story

In 2009, the environment ministry had put Hasdeo Arand under the “no-go” area for mining due to its rich forest cover. During this time, the environment ministry examined nine major coalfields and coal blocks located in these coalfields. Later they classified the areas as “go” and “no-go’’ based on whether they had unfragmented forests. However, in 2011, coal blocks which were classified as no-go areas for mining started mining as the no-go and go policy failed to settle. Right now, there are two active mines present on the fringes of Hasdeo.



State govt to pull final trigger

The FAC meeting held on January 15, 2019, stated that it has decided to recommend for grant of in-principle approval under a specific condition. The condition on which the FAC has emphasised upon is that the state government shall reconfirm the presence or absence of very dense forest in the northeastern part of the proposed forest land. Based upon this the stage-2 clearance will be given.

Siddhanta Das, the director general of forests, on the issue said that project had been given stage-1 approval. He further added that during their examination, they found out that a small part of the area might be very dense forest. Because of this, they suggested the state government check it further. The state government has been looking after the project for a long time. Das also that to avoid mining in any dense part of the forest, they have made this suggestion.

The minutes of the FAC’ meeting further stated that additional chief secretary (forest) of Chhattisgarh want to conduct another site inspection with a larger committee and over a longer duration, but the FAC decided no further data will be recovered from a new review. It said that the mine could be operational once the company receives environmental clearance and a final go-ahead from the state government.


Who will be the victim

It is true that the opening of mining in such a dense forest area will have a severe impact on the ecological balance. Alok Shukla, the social convenor of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, said that if the mining starts in the area, it will hamper the elephants as well as the water supply in the area. He also noted that tribals in the area are entirely dependent on forest produced, and replacing it with mining will bring them harm. He also said that the process of settling forest rights among the tribal population living here is yet to be completed.

Kancha Kohli, a legal researcher at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), expressed her concern saying that the recent in-principle approval has been given without the completion of several legal requirements. She further noted that Hasdeo is among the few unfragmented forests in India, which is being pursued not only for Parsa opencast mines but also for other adjoining mines. She said that ecological studies and biodiversity assessment of the Hasdeo Arand required by the National Green Tribunal judgement in 2014 are still pending. The site inspection has not included these reports in their examination.

 

SS Meena, director of Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL), said that they could start mining operations after receiving the stage-2 forest clearance. She also cleared the doubt of air by said that the mining contract is given to RCL and not Adani.

Read more here: Hindustan Times

Also Read: “Elephants Have First Right On Forest,” Says SC While Asking Assam Refinery To Demolish Wall


Contributors

Written by : Debarghya Sil

Edited by : Bharat Nayak

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