An environment ministry committee has approved coal mining projects in a forest corridor connecting two major tiger reserves in southern Madhya Pradesh - Satpuda and Pench.
The approval to these coal blocks were pending for close to two years, as the National Tiger Conservation Authority had objected to most of them.
Subsequently to NTCA recommendations, the ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC), mandated to allow diversion of forestland, decided to inspect the coal mining sites itself and take a decision.
The committee inspected 12 sites within the tiger corridor and recommended mining in five of them provided it was done by Coal India Limited and no private players were envisaged. The FAC accepted the recommendations of the committee and allowed mining at four sites within the fragile tiger habitat.
The coal sites, where the mining has been allowed, are Nandan-II, 60-Dhau North, Bansi-Harrodo, Tansi-I and Tansi-II and is a dense forest area.
The committee had asked the project proponents to ensure that the forest area is restored back to its original form in a scientific manner once the mining is completed.
However, wildlife experts say by then huge damage to local wildlife population would have been done as mining would disturb movement of big cats from one tiger reserve to another. Tigers are solitary animals and move from one forest area to another as congestion increase in their original habitat. Both the reserves have good population of tigers.
The FAC also rejected the recommendation of World Wide Fund (WWF) for nature to rejuvenate the corridor by raising irrigated plantations at substantially high cost. Instead, it suggested low cost model - a mix of forest and non-forest activities - for improving the habitat. It wants the WWF to prepare a new plan, which has already been delayed for several months.