Tribal community members of 30 villages in the Sarguja and Korba districts of Chhattisgarh have been protesting for days against the coal mining projects sanctioned in the state. They claim that the land acquistion for the projects are illegal.
The tribals have been walking for the last nine days and will march until they reach Raipur. They have sought a meeting with Governor Anusuiya Uike and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel with their demands, The Indian Express reported.
"If we don't walk now, our children will have nowhere to live," Shakuntala Ekka, one of the protestors, told the media. The protesters started their journey from Fatehpur on October 3 and is expected to continue till October 13.
According to the report, the villagers have raised their voices against the proposed and the ongoing coal mining projects in the Hasdeo Arand forest, which they say is Chhattisgarh's 'lungs'. Spanning over north Chhattisgarh's Korba, Sarguja and Surajpur districts, the forest and is rich in in biodiversity and wildlife, including elephant corridors that are crucial for forestation.
Allocation Of Coal Blocks Despite Protests
Protestors' unions have protested multiple times earlier. Despite that, six coal blocks were allocated in the region. The media reported that two have become operational for mining Parsa East and Kete Basan (PEKB) block Chotia-I and -II block.
The Parsa block has also received environmental clearance. The villagers allege that the forged documents and information has been submitted to receive the clearance. Besides, the gram sabhas were not taken into consent during the land acquisition process, and the Central and state government were going against the people, they alleged.
Study Recommends Against Clearance
In fact, a study has recommdended that 14 of the 23 coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand Coalfield should not be given mining clearance to protect the dense forest tracts in the region that are home to a large herd of elephants, reported Hindustan Times.
"Mining related land-use changes will harm forest cover/density, forest type, and forest fragmentation. In addition, forest fragmentation will contribute to decreased patch/corridor connectivity, increased edge effect, change in micro-climate and promote invasive species if not taken adequate mitigation measures," the study said. The 14 coal blocks fall within Chornai and Ton-Teti watershed areas in the Handeo Arand area, which is a total of 1879.6 sq km.
"The biodiversity study report was submitted to the state government around 15 days back and is under consideration," said Rakesh Chaturvedi, Chhattisgarh's principal chief conservator of forest.