Union coal minster to Chhattisgarh govt: Will investigate concerns raised regarding coal block auctionUpdated: Jul 09, 2020 09:08 IST
Raipur: Union Minister for Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi has responded to a letter written by Chhattisgarh minister for forest Mohammad Akbar, urging him not auction the five coal blocks that fall under the environmentally-fragile Hasdeo Arand, Lemru elephant reserve and the catchment area of Mand river.
Joshi’s letter, dated June 29, was received by the Chhattisgarh forest ministry on Tuesday evening, minister Akbar told HT.
The letter stated that the Central ministry would conduct an investigation into the matter about the concerns raised by the state authorities regarding the proposed auctions for the five coal blocks.
Earlier on June 21, Akbar had urged the Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, and Minister Pralhad Joshi not to auction the coal blocks in the ecologically-sensitive zone.
Akbar’s plea followed the Central government’s move to auction five coal blocks in the area -- Morga-2, Morga (south), Madanpur (north), Shyang, and Fatehpur (east), which are located between Hasdeo Arand and Mand rivers.
The state government has also earmarked a 1,995-square (sq) kilometre (km) forest area around the Hasdeo Arand river as a natural habitat for wild elephants, called Lemru elephant reserve, amid a spike in the pachyderm-locals’ conflict in the region.
State forest officials said that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel also spoke to minister Joshi in early July, urging him for the exclusion for five coal blocks from the proposed auction.
“Minister Akbar again wrote to Central minister Joshi and Javadekar on July 1, listing the five blocks, but we are yet to get any specific intimation whether the state government’s demands will be met,” said an official from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), requesting anonymity.
Rakesh Chaturvedi, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), Chhattisgarh, said that the state government has not received any information from the Centre in writing, indicating that it is considering the demand for the exclusion of the five blocks from the proposed auction.
Alok Shukla, convener, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a pressure group that was formed in 2009 and works for tribal rights in Hasdeo Arand area, blamed the Central government for dragging its feet over the issue.
“It’s hard to understand what further investigation does the Union ministry want to do? The list of coal blocks that will be auctioned is being prominently displayed on the ministry’s website since January while categorising them as ‘high conservation zones’. The Centre should pay heed to the state government’s plea and take off these five coal blocks on environmental grounds,” said Shukla.
He also called the Centre’s bluff to the media that eight rounds of consultations have been held with the state government on the auction list.
“If that’s the case, then why does the state government have to write several letters to the Union government citing environmental concerns?” he asked.
He alleged that minister Joshi could be trying to distract public attention because of non-compliance of norms and a raging controversy surrounding the auction of coal blocks.