Coal mine auction opens up forest stretches
Forty-one coal mines up for auction this time includes fully explored and partially explored mines in states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha.
The list of 41 mines suggests that several of them are in biodiversity rich forest areas of central India, including a few in one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest called Hasdeo Arand spanning 1,70,000 hectares (ha).
A brief description of mines up for auction on the MSTC website shows many of them do not have the required clearance and are in the midst of protected forests.
Madanpur North in Chhattisgarh, for example, has an area of 21 sqkm of which 19 sqkm is forest land. The area is the drainage basin for several streams that join the Hasdeo river. It awaits both forest and environment nod.
Morga II, also in Hasdeo Arand coal block, has an area of 26.64 sqkm of which 85% is forest land. The area falls within the drainage of Hasdeo river, a major tributary of Mahanadi. Almost the entire Morga South coal block is forest as per the description on MSTC.
There are several coal blocks in biodiversity rich Jharkhand as well. For example, Chakla block has 55% forest cover and acts as drainage for major rivers such as Damodar and Bakri. Jharkhand’s Choritand Tilaya is also 50% forest area, while Seregarha block is 40% forest land. Madhya Pradesh’s Gotitoria East coal block is 80% forest land and acts as drainage for Sitarewa river.
There are several other blocks among the 41 that will entail huge forest loss, show documents.
Gram sabhas in Hasdeo Arand in Surguja region of Chhattisgarh have written to PM Modi on Tuesday asking him to stop the auction of five coal blocks in the region.
“Twenty gram sabhas of the region have been regularly passing resolutions against mining and auction of coal blocks in the region,” the letter stated.
HT sought a response from the coal ministry on how the auctions will impact forests but hasn’t received a response yet.
“Nature has blessed eastern and central India with rich coal deposits. I want to assure people of these regions that labour welfare and development of coal bearing regions are foremost on our mind,” Union coal minister Pralhad Joshi said on Thursday.
The last date for submission of bids for commercial mining rights is August 18.