Chhattisgarh: Tree cutting for coal mining starts in Hasdeo amid protests
Officials said about a dozen people from Ghatbarra village were detained for allegedly misleading and instigating villagers
RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh’s forest department on Monday started felling trees for the second phase of Parsa East Kente Basan (PEKB) coal mine project amid continuing protests by activists and villagers against clearance to coal mines in the state’s biodiversity-rich Hasdeo Arand region.
Surguja Collector Kundan Kumar said that the forest department started felling trees in Pendramar-Ghatbarra forest on Tuesday morning for phase II of PEKB coal mine and police personnel have been deployed to prevent any untoward incident.
Asked about state government’s assurance that no new mines will be opened in the Hasdeo area, the collector said PEKB is an old mine and necessary clearances had already been granted.
“Some external elements are opposing PEKB-2 in the name of Parsa Coal Mines, saying that it is a new mine, which is completely misleading and untrue. There has never been any objection from the locals regarding this area of PEKB-2,” the district’s administrative chief said.
Meanwhile, activists claimed that the trees were being chopped despite the Ghatbarra gram sabha passing a resolution against mining in June 2022.
“Trees are being chopped at a breakneck speed in Hasdeo for PEKB phase ll coal mines. Heavy police forces have deployed in the site and the demarcated forest is completely cordoned off. No one is allowed to enter the forest area. The sarpanch of Gha barra and Paturiya Dand villages were taken in custody along with some other protestors. The villagers demanded cancellation of coal blocks through a written order,” said Bipashu Paul, an activist working in Hasdeo Arand Area.
The state government granted permission for non-forestry use of 841.538 hectares of forest land for the Parsa mine (Surguja and Surajpur districts) and 1,136.328 hectares for PEKKB phase-II mine (Surguja), allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL), after Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot met chief minister Bhupesh Baghel in March this year to seek development of the coal blocks allotted to the former’s state.
Another coal block, Kente extension allotted to RRVUNL in the same Hasdeo Arand region, is pending for public hearing.
According to officials, the first phase of mining in 762 hectares of land in PEKB block was allotted RVUNL in 2007. Mining started in 2013 and has been completed.
Villagers under the banner of Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti have been protesting the allotment of these mines for the last several months.
The forest department in May this year launched a tree cutting exercise to pave the way for the start of the PEKB phase II coal mine, triggering strong opposition from local villagers who forced the authorities to halt their action.
Subsequently, the state government in June had halted the proceedings over these three proposed coal mine projects.