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Opinion

Government seeks to acquire forest land for mining in Korba

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The coal ministry has issued a notice regarding its intention to acquire 712,072 hectares (ha) and all rights to the land for the extraction of coal in the Madanpur South coal block in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh, whose government has been considering declare the rich forest area as an elephant reserve. .

According to the notification published on December 24, 489,274 ha are protected forest lands and 159,327 include public lands and other forest lands.

The intention to acquire the land has been notified in accordance with the provisions of the Coal Production Areas (Acquisition and Development) Law. The law says that if the central government is convinced that coal can be obtained from a tract of land, it can notify its intention to acquire it.

But the diversion of forest land for non-forest use has yet to take place because the Chhattisgarh government was considering declaring it an elephant reserve.

“We have not started the process of diverting forest lands. I can’t say anything about whether or when it will deviate. The issue of expanding the elephant reserve is still under consideration, ”said Rakesh Chaturvedi, Chief Principal Conservator of Forests (PCCF) in Chhattisgarh.

“Since the elephant reserve has not yet been notified, commenting on its limits will be premature. The government will accept a call, ”said PVN Rao, PCCF (wildlife) in Chhattisgarh.

Environmental activists and legal researchers have raised various concerns with the intention of acquiring large, biodiversity-rich forest lands located in the Hasdeo Arand region, one of the largest contiguous expanses of very dense forest in central India covering 170,000 ha and has 22 carbon blocks underneath.

“The central government has issued a notification to acquire the same forest land for which a diversion process is pending, especially as the state government is seeking to declare the area an elephant reserve and local Gram Sabhas have refused to grant consent. “said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher with the think tank at the Center for Policy Research.

“This raises a serious legal question about the validity of the notice issued under the Coal Areas Act of 1957, which seeks to acquire forest land from the government. But more importantly, it highlights the failure of cooperative federalism, as both the central and state governments seem to have envisioned a different future for the Hasdeo Arand region, where the Madanpur South coal block is located, ”Kohli said. .

Alok Shukla, coordinator of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a non-governmental organization, said the government should consult the local gram sabha (village council).

“I think that acquiring forest land like this is against the provisions of the Panchayats Law (Extension to programmed areas). Recently, four blocks of coal in the Hasdeo region were spared from being auctioned after the state government said they have rich and dense forest cover. This block is also in Hasdeo Arand and the Hasdeo river basin is located here, so why is it acquired for mining? First there should be a detailed consultation with the people of the region and the state government should oppose this measure by the Center, “he said.

When asked if the Center had considered the impact of mining on elephant habitat and rich forested area, a senior coal ministry official said, on condition of anonymity: “The consultations are premature. The notification speaks simply of the intention to acquire. The objective is precisely to discover the complexities based on which a decision will be made ”.

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