Trees were cut for coal mining in Hasdeo Aranya, action stopped after protests by villagers
In March this year, the Congress-led Bhupesh Baghel government of Chhattisgarh gave final nod for non-forestry use of forest land for Parsa East Kante Besan Phase II coal mining in Surguja district. On behalf of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, it has been said that mining in the ecologically sensitive Hasdeo Aranya region will destroy 1,70,000 hectares of forest and start human-elephant conflict.
New Delhi: The state forest department on Monday started cutting trees for the second phase of mining at Parsa East Kante Besan (PEKB) coal mine, amid ongoing protests against the approval of coal mines in the bio-diversity-rich Hasdeo Aranya region of Chhattisgarh. .
However, it was stopped after a large number of villagers protested against the move. Officials said 50-60 trees were cut before the operation was stopped, while villagers claim that around 250 trees were cut.
In March this year, the state’s Congress-led Bhupesh Baghel government had given final approval for non-forestry use of forest land for PEKB second phase coal mining in Surguja district.
Vivek Shukla, Additional Superintendent of Police, Surguja district said that the forest department had started felling of trees in Pendramar forest adjoining Ghatbarra village on Monday morning. During this a large number of villagers reached there and started opposing the harvesting.
Shukla said that in view of the protest of the villagers, the felling of trees in the area was stopped and the villagers were pacified.
Jaynandan Porte, sarpanch of Ghatbarra gram panchayat, has claimed that the permission for the second phase of PEKB mining has been given on the basis of the consent of the fake gram sabha.
He alleged that the Gram Sabha for the second phase of PEKB was held in 2019, which was not officially informed to the villagers of Ghatbarra at that time. Actually, the attendance register of that gram sabha has the signatures of three residents of the village, who died before 2019. That gram sabha was completely bogus, but unfortunately mining was approved on the basis of it. We have demanded an inquiry into it.
Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA) convener Alok Shukla has said that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had recently said in Cambridge that he had a problem with the decision to allow mining in the Hasdeo forest area, but despite the surprising number of trees. Harvesting started.
This morning again, felling of trees was started for the second phase of Parsa East Kete Basen coal block in Hasdeo Aranya area with heavy police force.
The protest by the villagers continues.@RahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/JWYb5uuA7e
— Alok Shukla (@alokshuklacg) May 30, 2022
Shukla said, “Last month the forest department had initiated a similar action for the Parsa coal mine project, and that too was thwarted by the villagers. The state government is ignoring the welfare of tribals.
He claimed that mining in the ecologically sensitive Hasdeo reserve would destroy 1,70,000 hectares of forest and trigger human-elephant conflict.
Both Parsa and PEKB coal blocks are part of Hasdeo forest area in Surguja division. Parsa coal block has been allotted to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited, while Adani Enterprises has been given the responsibility of mine developer and operator.
According to officials, the first phase of mining in 762 hectares of land in PEKB block, which was allotted to RVUNL in 2007, was started in 2013 and has been completed. Parsa block was allotted in 2015.
Concern has been raised for some time about the destruction of biodiversity in this region. As the Indian Express has reported, two studies by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and the Wildlife Institute of India have “underscored the importance of biodiversity in the region that mining will undoubtedly affect it.”
The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education said that 14 of the proposed 23 coal blocks in the area should not be approved.
He also talked about the human-elephant conflict and said that the number of elephants in Chhattisgarh is less as compared to other states.
Villagers have also said that their access to land and their livelihood will be affected by the project and there are long protests over the issue. In October 2021, a 300-km padyatra was carried out to Raipur by around 350 people from tribal communities to protest against the ‘illegal’ land acquisition.
Hasdeo Aranya is a dense forest, which is spread over an area of 1,500 km. This area is home to the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh. An estimated five billion tonnes of coal are buried under this dense forest. Mining has become a big business in the area, which is being opposed by the local people.
The Hasdeo Aranya forest was declared a complete ‘no go area’ in 2010 on the basis of a joint research of the Ministry of Coal and the Ministry of Environment and Water in 2010.
However, this decision was rescinded within a few months and the first phase of mining was approved, the latter of which began in 2013.
On October 21, the central government had approved the second phase of mining in Chhattisgarh’s Parsa coal block. Parsa is one of the six coal blocks allocated in the area despite the tribals’ agitation.
Despite more than a decade of resistance against mining activity, displacement and deforestation, the Congress-led government of Chhattisgarh, led by the Congress, on April 6 gave the final approval for felling of trees and mining activity in Hasdeo reserve. .
This final approval was given for non-forest use of land for Parsa opencast coal mining project under Surajpur and Surguja districts.
(with input from news agency language)
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