Chhattisgarh: Ministry of Coal plan to acquire nearly 2000 hectares of protected forest land

Villagers, advocates and activists point out that the government should not undertake the project without the approval of local people.


The Ministry of Coal plans to acquire 1,760 hectares of protected forested land in Sarguja, Chhattisgarh for mining, said a Daily Chhattisgarh report on October 15, 2020.

The report, which was the first public announcement of such a project, said the notification was issued on May 11 for the Hasdeo Arand area, one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest in central India spanning 170,000 hectares with 22 coal blocks. According to the Coal Ministry, the Kente extension coal block there has total coal resources estimated at 200 million tonnes.

Noting the resistance from the state government, Union Minister of Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi, accepted a proposal to exclude five coal blocks in the area – Morga -2, Morga (south), Madanpur (north), Shyang, and Fathehpur (east) – that were among 41 coal mines being auctioned.

The government plans to acquire the land under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act provides land ownership to the centre within two years of notification provided it is satisfied that coal is extractable from whole or part of a tract of land.

However, convener of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan Alok Shukla, argued that there should be no mining in the area because it is proximity to dense forests. He said the state government should have notified Gram Sabhas to seek people’s opinion first because the decision “devastate the lives of local people.” This claim also goes in line with the rights given to indigenous people under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Similarly, environmental lawyer Sudiep Shrivastava said the decision went against the Supreme Court’s observation on September 30 that neither the centre nor the state has the right to mine an area if it falls in an eco-sensitive zone.

This decision is based on a plea by the Jharkhand government that challenged the Centre’s plan to auction coal blocks for commercial mining. Chief Justice of India S. A. Bobde had asked the Centre to file an affidavit on whether the coal blocks being auctioned are in eco-sensitive zones or not.

The Hasdeo Arand area, being the catchment area of River Hasdeo, has very high crown density. Moreover, the Coal Bearing Areas Act cannot grant land ownership to a state PSU which has a mine developer and operator (MDO) agreement with a private company, although attempts are being made to bring such an amendment.

In 2009, the Environment Ministry categorised Hasdeo Arand stretch as a “No-Go” zone for mining. However, it was opened to mining again because the policy wasn’t finalized. A senior official from the Ministry said that coal mining is impossible without environmental clearance and forest clearance. The specifics of this case would be known to Coal India Limited.

Much like the Coal Bearing Areas Act, the government has made many changes to environment and natural resource laws. The notification of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 has relaxed the approvals required by corporates to undertake construction projects. Similarly, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 increases the limits for mining. Moreover, it creates a new category of mining license for undertaking prospecting operations such as exploring or proving mineral deposits, followed by mining operations. Further, a Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 will remove the eligibility restriction prescribed in the Coal Mine (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 that only let companies engaged in a ‘specified end-use’ bid in the auction of Mining Concessions.

These amendments are likely to change the state of natural resources in the country. At the same time, adivasis, forest-dwellers, fishermen and other communities directly engaged with nature are becoming more aware about these laws. Tribals in certain areas have also begun to voice their voice against these legislations.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has actively worked with such communities and recently conducted a training programme where forest-dwellers were sensitised about various legal provisions relating to the environment.


No auctioning yet: Madras HC stays state tenders for mining in Dharmapuri
वनाधिकार क़ानून २००६ प्रशिक्षण भाग १
Adivasis protest Deocha-Pachami coal mining project
Is Adani enterprises illegally acquiring land for coal mining in Chhattisgarh?



Related Articles