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The Supreme Court has questioned the Central government’s authority to allocate coal blocks to companies and has sought legal explanation as the statutory Act empowers only the respective states to allocate coal blocks. The apex court said that the Centre has absolutely no power under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957 to allocate coal blocks to companies and neither is there any provision overriding this Act.
25 January 2013
Endangered tigers are affected by coal mining in forests in Central India
The Supreme Court also expressed concerns over the procedure and manner in which 218 coal blocks were allocated to private and public sector companies. It asked the Central Government for an explanation on these allocations that the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) alleged made the exchequer suffer a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and J Chelameswar asked the government to go through other legislations particularly the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, to find out whether it is empowered to allocate the resources. The bench has asked the Centre to respond within six weeks.
Apart from the issue of corruption in coal block allocations we must not forget that coal mining in forests affects the endangered tiger, other species of wildlife and forest dwelling communities. Along with ensuring that there is no more corruption we must also protect what’s left of our last remaining forests. Á Greenpeace petition addressed to the Prime Minister began on July 19, 2012 asking him to stop all new coal allocations and forest clearances until the coal scam has been fully investigated and there is a clear demarcation of areas that shouldn’t be mined. Over 9,00,000 people have signed this petition till date.
A ray of hope in Chhattisgarh
Though Chhattisgarh has some of the largest coal deposits in the country and is dotted with thermal power plants, the state government is moving steadily toward solar energy. The state has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth Rs 50,000 only to invest in solar energy last year.
In fact, since 2001 the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Authority (CREDA) has been working on providing remote villages in the state decentralized, renewable sources of power. About 1,400 small villages have been electrified with subsidies from the Central government for remote village electrification under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
This success story is inspiring especially in a dirty energy hub like Chhattisgarh and other states can adopt a similar model. Furthermore, decentralised solar power need not be used only in remote villages that cannot be connected to the central grid, it can be used anywhere the sun shines.
Green activists in HP object MoEF’s decision to wave off approval from locals
Green activists in Himachal Pradesh have vehemently opposed the Union Environment Ministry’s decision to revoke the approval required from the locals under the Forest Conservation Act, to divest forest land for different projects. In a January 19 letter to Environment and Forests Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan the activists have objected to the arbitrary manner in which the decision has been taken and have said that the rights of forest-dwellers must be settled first and consent sought from the affected village councils.
Himdhara, a local environment action group, said that the unilateral decision by the environment ministry is against the provisions of the scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006. They also pointed out that the decision is also in violation of the ministry's own circular of August 2009 that made mandatory for project proponents to get non-objection certificates (NoCs) from the affected 'gram sabhas' and compliance with the forest rights act before diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.
MP government declares 17 eco-sensitive zones in state
Following a directive from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Madhya Pradesh government identified 17 eco-sensitive zones in the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the state. Illegal mining and commercial activities will be banned around these areas.
25 January 2013
A Sambar at Kanha National Park, MP
Madhya Pradesh has 25 wildlife sanctuaries and eight National Parks. The state Forest Department identified and approved the eco-sensitive zones across Pench National Park, Kanha National Park, Panna National Park, Kuno Palpur sanctuary and Bandhavgarh National Park among others.
Ignatius Thekaekara is Online Media Officer with Greenpeace India.