The arrival of four tiger cubs in Tadoba — considered as one of the flourishing habitats for the striped cats — has brought cheers to the wildlife lovers. However, on the contrary, the rampant coal mining in Chandrapur and its surrounding areas pose a grave threat to tiger conservation and protection.
A fact-finding team, comprising environment experts and environment lawyers has issued this warning.
Tadoba tiger reserve, one of the country's oldest national parks, was in the news recently for better big cat conservation and birth of 32 tiger cubs in the area since January 2010.
The team, comprising wildlife expert Pravin Bhargav, Bishwajit Mohanty and environment lawyer Rahul Choudhary, released its findings and recommendations in a report titled "Undermining Tadoba’s tigers" said that no new mines should be given forest clearance in the region and further expansion of mines in operation in the tiger habitat should be stopped. The team visited the area in September this year and interacted with villagers, miners, environmentalist, government officials and businessmen ; and came out with 66-page report on the issue.
The union government has allotted over half a dozen new coal mines in the periphery of Tadoba tiger reserve where already half a dozen coal mines -- including Padmapur and Durgapur coal mines of Western Coalfields and Karnataka EMTA Coal mines -- are operating.
They have also warned that tiger reserve risks being completely cut off from surrounding forests by mines and dams, and that the ecological impact will be irreversible and cannot be compensated by afforestation. Tadoba has 79 tigers. The coal mining is threatening connectivity between forest patches that are important for the long-term survival of this tiger population.
The report flatly contradicts the recent report of the BK Chaturvedi committee set up by the group of ministers on coal. The Chaturvedi report recommended relaxing environmental safeguards to facilitate an expansion in coal mining, and abandoning the union ministry for environment and forests' classification of 'go' and 'no go' areas.
The Chandrapur experience clearly shows that the clearance process is severely flawed, with mines coming up in critical tiger habitat. For the Chaturvedi report to recommend further relaxing clearance procedures is highly irresponsible, said the fact-finding team. "If accepted, the Chaturvedi report’s recommendations will be a death warrant for large forest areas across India and for the wildlife and communities that depend on them," it further warned.