Stop auction of 9 coal blocks: Chhattisgarh to Centre
The auction of the nine coal blocks will impact the lives of people in 24 villages and would destroy local ecology, the state government said
Chhattisgarh has asked the central government to stop auctioning nine of the 23 coalfields located in pristine forests around the Hasdeo Arand and Mand River catchment since mining in these areas would harm local ecosystems.
The auction of the nine coal blocks will impact the lives of people in 24 villages and would destroy local ecology, the state government said in a June 23 letter to the Union coal secretary.
“Chhattisgarh assembly on July 26, 2022, had resolved to get call coal blocks in the Hasdeo area to be cancelled. The coal ministry was informed about the resolution on September 19, 2022,” Jai Prakash Maurya, special mining secretary of the Chhattisgarh government, said in the letter. “I have been directed to inform the state government’s objection to the proposed auction of nine block blocks in the area.”
In March, the Union government announced the 7th round of its coal mine auctions, in which 101 fields were to be auctioned, including the Tara block in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand forest, which has a canopy cover of 81%.
Another six coal blocks are in the catchment area of Mand River, an important tributary of the Hasdeo River. Both rivers have their origin in the dense forests of northern Chhattisgarh, which have up to 80% of forest cover. The region has a significant presence of elephants and is an important site for migratory birds, state officials said.
“A total of 24 villages will be directly affected by the mining of these nine coal blocks, and the total coal reserve area (geological block area) is 16,810 hectares meaning that many forests will be lost,” said a forest official, requesting anonymity.
The state government was awaiting a response from the Centre, an official at chief minister Bhupesh Baghel’s office said. “Once that comes, we will decide further course of action, but these nine blocks should be exempted for the sake of environment, biodiversity and forest,” he said, requesting anonymity.
It was good to see Chhattisgarh objecting auction of densely forested coalfields situated in river catchments, said Sudiep Shrivastava, a Bilaspur-based advocate, who has been filing lawsuits against mining in Hasdeo Aranya.
“The ministry of coal ought to have kept such blocks out of the auction list since only 29 blocks received bid out of 141 offered in the last auction,” Shrivastava said, questioning the rationale to auction 101 blocks.
The Chhattisgarh assembly has unanimously resolved to protect the entire Hasdeo region from any disruption, including a ban on coal mining, and the state government is bound to protect it, according to Alok Shukla of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, an advocacy group.
“Unfortunately, coal mines in such rich ecosystems are being unnecessarily allocated merely for commercial gains of the corporates, that too when there is no need,” Shukla said. “Already, coal mines with a cumulative capacity worth 2400 million tonnes per annum have been allocated, which is far more than India’s total energy needs till 2040.”
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