Chhattisgarh Hasdeo Arand forests Open cast coal mining project
Coal and its variability in uses has always been fascinating for the mankind. Now, while we come within reach of the phase where in many other alternatives have been found out which are way better than coal and are sustainable as well, then, why do we still choose coal all over again and lead to our own destruction? One such program is the Hasdeo Arand forests Open cast coal mining project in Chhattisgarh. Hasdeo Arand is one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest in central India which is known to have significant coal reserves.
The Union environment ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC) approved the company Rajasthan Collieries Ltd, operated by Adani Enterprises, for diverting more than 841.5 hectares of forest land for mining coal in Chhattisgarh’s Parsa block. According to Adani, the new mine has a mineable reserve of 200m metric tons of coal and a lifespan of only 42 years. For which the minable area is more than a fifteen hundred football fields (1573) to be precise, 573841.5 hectares of forest land destroying the rich biodiversity of the forest which is a home to many rare plants. Some of the endangered Flora includes: Critically endangered 'sarp gandh' (Rauvolfia serpentina), endangered 'Bach'(Acorus calamus L.), vulnerable 'safed moosli' (Chlorophytum borivilianum) and vulnerable 'Salai' (Boswellia serrata). The forest has diverse and rich fauna which provides extensive land for the existence of wildlife including threatened species of leopards, sloth bears, and elephants. The forest is also known to be the dwelling place for the Gond tribe, an active adivasi community that lives inside small villages scattered throughout the forest.
NTCA‟s 2011 report shows tiger presence recorded in the Hasdeo-Arand area in 2004, with no record in 2010. Forest department correspondence in 2007 also cites tiger presence in the area near the Nakia block 20 of Tiger and Elephant presence in the Forest Division and Panther presence is also seen from the wildlife census for the years 2002 to 2005. No records of wildlife census from 2006- 07 onwards, purportedly the year when coal block the allocation process began, is found. However, the presence of wildlife in the area in the later years is confirmed by the extensive distribution of compensation awarded to villagers in the forest on account of damage due to wildlife. Tiger presence in the area is also probable, as Hasdeo-Arand has forest links with the Achanakmarh Tiger Reserve to the west.
Until 15 years ago, the area had no active coal fields, but now, mining is ongoing in a couple of mines while authorities are considering green clearances for many other coal blocks in the region. There are 18 coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand area and a major part of these coalfields is still in a virgin state, with huge resources of power grade coal; that we need to protect. Out of the 18 coal blocks, mining operations are currently being carried out in two coal blocks – Parsa East and Kete Basan (PEKB) and Chotia – while proposals for mining in four other coal blocks are under consideration at different levels of the Chhattisgarh government and the central government of India. It is estimated that an average of Around 370,000 trees will be felled during the mines 34-year lifespan; leading to huge loss in the biodiversity as well to our well-being.
Most of the mining cites in Hasdeo-Arand forests are open-cast that is the ground on top has to be destroyed as the coal beneath is too shallow for underground mining. It leads to greater air pollution due to the blasting of land as well as loading and unloading of overburdened soil which it too much devastation for the humans as well as the flora and fauna.
We still have a chance; we still can oppose the FAC and help save the precious lives of the endangered animals and do something before it is too late!