Ramesh’s policy on coal mining gets green backing | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Ramesh’s policy on coal mining gets green backing

A day after the government constituted a Group of Ministers on environmental issues, environmental clamour against Coal ministry’s proposal to restrict No Go areas to 10 % of forestland has increased. Ramesh had categorized 35 % of forestland as No Go.

delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2011 00:08 IST
Chetan Chauhan

A day after the government constituted a Group of Ministers on environmental issues, environmental clamour against Coal ministry’s proposal to restrict No Go areas to 10 % of forestland has increased. Jairam Ramesh had categorized 35 % of forestland as No Go.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, in a note to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has said that only two coal mining projects were pending with the ministry and a group of top 27 environmentalists have written to PM supporting Ramesh’s “Go No-Go” policy for mining in forest areas.

“We are in possession of the Cabinet note drafted by the coal ministry…the note has been circulated with no consultation with the public or experts,” the letter said, while demanding a process of public and expert consultation on government decisions regarding environmental and social concerns.

The letter also said that forests are repositories of biodiversity and wildlife, and a critical survival resource for thousands of forest dwellers and coal mining possess a serious threat to the livelihood rights of these dwellers as seen in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra and other coal belts.

Raising the wildlife concern, the environmentalists said that coal mining disrupts wildlife corridors essential to species such as elephants, tigers and leopards. They also said forests were key to mitigate current and future impacts of climate change.

Their concerns have also been reflected in Environment ministry’s comments to the proposal saying that accepting Coal ministry’s demand will open flood gate for similar demands from other ministries.

“Apart from causing irreparable damage to the first and wildlife wealth of the country, it will defeat the very purpose of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980,” the ministry said, in its comments. Moreover, the ministry said it has followed the directions of the Supreme Court in diverting forestland in protected areas and any deviation may invite adverse action from the apex court.

In a point-wise rejoinder to the Coal ministry’s proposal, the environment ministry said it appears that the Ministry of Coal wants regularization of operation of coal blocks from entire coal fields in toto.

“Thus, the proposal has far reaching consequences not only for appraisal for Environmental Clearance for coal sector projects but also for other related sectors such as mining in iron ore, bauxite and oil exploration found in rich dense forests,” the ministry said.

The environment ministry has blamed incomplete proposal received from project proponents for delaying in granting approval to coal projects. Of the 291 proposals received for forest clearance, the ministry has approved 174 and rejected only 14. Cabinet comittee comments

As many as 21 projects were closed because of non-receipt of requisite information and 23 are pending with the government of India for same reason. Only two projects with complete information are pending with the ministry as against the Coal ministry’s claim that 154 projects are pending.

Ramesh has ruled out a special procedure for according forest clearance to mining projects.