Study warns against mining nod to 14 coal blocks in Hasdeo Arand
Fourteen of the 23 coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand Coalfield should not be given mining clearance to protect the dense forest tracts in the region that are home to a large herd of elephants, a study has recommended.
According to a research by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education’s to assess the floral and faunal biodiversity of the coalfield, mining work was likely to raise environmental concerns in the region.
“Mining related land-use changes will harm forest cover/density, forest type, and forest fragmentation. In addition, forest fragmentation will contribute to decreased patch/corridor connectivity, increased edge effect, change in micro-climate and promote invasive species if not taken adequate mitigation measures,” the study said.
These fourteen coal blocks fall within Chornai and Ton-Teti watershed areas in the Handeo Arand area, which is a total of 1879.6 square kilometer.
“The report has been submitted to us but the recommendations will be examined by the government and will be placed before the cabinet first .. Till now , the government’s decision over the report is not finalised” said forest minster Mohammad Akbar.
The study further recommended that allotted four contiguous coal blocks falling within the Gej-Jhink watershed – Tara, Parsa, Parsa East Kanta Basan (PEKB)and Kente Extension – which are either already open or in advance stage of getting the statutory clearances – can be considered for mining with strict environmental safeguards, including appropriate conservation measures for the management of surface water and biodiversity.
“The biodiversity study report was submitted to the state government around 15 days back and is under consideration.
Necessary action over the report is to be discussed within the government and subsequently, it would be forwarded to Union government with state government recommendations,” said Rakesh Chaturvedi, Chhattisgarh’s principal chief conservator of forest.
The study was conducted in eighteen months from 2019 to February 2021. The study area was the entire Hasdeo-Arand Coalfield (HAC), comprising of 23 coal blocks, which fall partly in Udaipur tehsil of Surguja district, Premnagar tehsil of Surajpur district, Poundi Uproda and Korba tehsils of Korba district in Chhattisgarh.
The study was directed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 after an activist Sudeip Shrivastva challenged the stage-2 clearance by the ministry of environment & forests of Parsa East & Kanta Basan (PEKB) allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL). NGT in its judgment quashed the said forest clearance, and an appeal was filed by RVUNL.
In 2019, during the hearing of the said appeal, the Supreme Court asked about the compliance of NGT direction and five years after the order, the study started.
The study further observed that infrastructure development and mining will harm the quality of habitat due to fragmentation and mitigation, which will be a huge challenge. The effect of mining on elephant habitat may not reflect in the same habitat but could be a silent trigger for Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in some other areas within landscape.