Chhattisgarh elephant reserve may lead to mining ban
Days after the Chhattisgarh government announced the setting up of the Lemru Elephant Reserve (LER), officials indicated that this could automatically lead to a ban on the mining activity in the region, especially in Hasdeo Arand forest, known for its high-quality coal reserves.
“There are two operational coal mines in this region and we are not including them in the proposed reserve. There are about 19 coal deposits in LER, on which the cabinet will take decision in due course,” an official from the chief minister’s office said on the condition of anonymity.
A second official familiar with the development said an area of 1,995 sq kms falling in four forest divisions — Korba, Kathghora, Surajpur and Dharamjaigarh — will be declared an elephant reserve. “A proposal will soon be submitted for cabinet approval,” the official said. “The land earmarked by the previous government in 2007 was 450 sq km. We have expanded it to 1,995.48 sq km.” Activists also said that if 1,995 sq km of land is notified as an elephant reserve, then mining activity might automatically come to an end.
“If LER is of 1,995 sq km, then forests around 19 coal deposits will be preserved. The BJP government in 2007 had proposed this reserve in which only nine coal mining areas were coming. The [latest] decision will not only help improve elephant population but will also help in conserving entire Hasdeo Arand forest,” Alok Shukla, president of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan.
Shukla said they want that areas where coal mining is proposed such as Parsa, Paturia Giddamudi, Morga Madanpur should also be included in its buffer zone of the reserve. “Only then the biodiversity and Minimata Bango barrage [an important water body for animals] of Hasdeo can be preserved,” he said. In his Independence Day speech, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had announced that the idea to develop Lemru Elephant Reserve was aimed at providing a permanent habitat to tuskers and reducing human-animal conflicts. The state has 254 elephants, according to the last elephant census done in 2018.
Raipur-based elephant expert DS Malya said the decision would help in preserving a pristine forest from coal mining and human interference. “This will enable reduce human–elephant conflicts. I hope that government sticks to its decision,” he added.