Imagine a herd of elephants taking out a protest march. Well, if they could there would be one happening in Chhattisgarh right now. The Chhattisgarh government recently scrapped the Lemru elephant reserve in Korba district for a coal mine.

The elephants have all the rights to be upset. First the state government reduced the size of the reserve, then they kept delaying its notification and finally aborted one of reserves for a coal mine.

In 2005 the Chhattisgarh government gave a unanimous resolution, seeking the central government’s support to create two elephant reserves in the region. The environment and forest ministry finally gave its approval to this in 2007. The state receives Rs 70-80 lakh under the Project Elephant scheme. While the state government continued to receive aid, neither of the reserves was notified by them.

ElephantsLemru, a proposed elephant reserve in the Korba district in Chhattisgarh was scrapped to accomodate a coal mine.Man-elephant conflict is a problem in the area, and scrapping of the reserve will not be much of a help in this case.

Here’s why the state government, gradually and very slyly got rid of the elephant reserve. In 2008, the state forest department received a letter from the CII chief telling them that the area around the Lemru elephant sanctuary was found to be rich in coal. Following this, the state government reduced the area of the sanctuary. The freed areas were given to a coal mining consortium.

The corporate lobby kept pressurising the government to free more of the area in the reserve for mining. Their tactics worked and the size of the reserve was reduced further to accommodate more coal mines and finally it was scrapped.

The main purpose of setting up these sanctuaries was to reduce the man and elephant conflict in this area. This sudden change of stance will not only destroy the virgin forest but also increase the instances of man-elephant conflict in the area.

This issue gains more importance because of the debate on the Go and No-Go mining areas demarcated by the environment and forest ministry. Incidentally the abolished reserve falls in the Hasdeo Arand, which is a contentious area in the No-Go debate.

The No-Go zone issue awaits decision from the Group of Ministers (GOM), constituted to decide on this issue. An elephant reserve and a virgin forest have been sacrificed even before this group has met. If the GoM decides to do away with this demarcation, then many more such forests will be gone forever. Before taking any decision, the body needs to keep in mind that while there are viable sustainable options to meet growing energy requirements, ancient forests cannot be replanted or replaced.


Chhattisgarh govt scraps elephant reserve plan for coal mining, Times of India, January 16, 2011