Greenpeace recently released the results of a fact-finding mission to Maharashtra's Chandrapur region, near the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). The rapid assessment revealed that ongoing and proposed coal mining in the area continues to pose a serious threat to tigers by destroying the forest corridors around the reserve.
"Chandrapur is symptomatic of the threat that coal mining poses to the tiger and other species in much of central India. It's shocking that even though India's tiger population is at critical levels, the coal ministry is pushing for the destruction of more than six lakh hectares of forests for coal mining. Much of this is habitat for tigers and other threatened species, and essential for the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. We are here to tell Minister Jaiswal that such brazen forest destruction is no longer acceptable," said Preethi Herman, campaigner, Greenpeace India.
More than 26,000 hectares of forest land has been diverted for coal mining since 2007, making coal one of the biggest threats to forests in the country. The coal ministry has been asking for additional forest land to increase coal production in Central India, blaming forest clearance procedures for a shortfall in energy generation. Since Coal India Limited already has access to over 200,000 hectares of coal bearing land, including 55,000 hectares of forest area, (1) there has been speculation that this is a poorly disguised land grab.
Earlier this year, the Chaturvedi committee recommended that the Ministry of Environment and Forest's (MoEF) "go" and "no go" policy be discarded and that coal mining be allowed in virtually all forest areas. The Group of Ministers (GoM) on coal is reported to be considering alternative criteria to demarcate forests that will be off limits for mining.
"Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on new forest clearances for coal mining until an assessment is made of coal reserves in existing mines, and a transparent public consultation process is held to arrive at the criteria for determining forests closed to mining. These criteria need to take into account biodiversity, livelihood dependence, hydrological values and the value of intact landscapes," added Preethi Herman.
Even as the stalemate at the GoM continues, the Prime Minister's Office, Coal Ministry, Planning Commission and private players are exerting pressure on the MoEF to give clearances for specific coal blocks in critical forest areas, such as the Mahan block in Singrauli. Both Hindalco and Essar Power are on record writing to both PMO and MoEF asking that the block be given forest clearance. The GoM is currently reported to be "considering" the matter.
1. According to Ministry of Environment and Forest's presentation to the Group of Ministers.
For further information, please contact:
Preethi Herman, Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +91 99014 88482,
Shachi Chaturvedi, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91 98187 50007,