Mining In Tigerland
December 2008: In the last decade, the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve(TATR) in Maharashtra has slowly but surely established itself as a stronghold of the tiger in Central India. However, its location in the mining district of Chandrapur that also has some of the highest incidences of human-wildlife conflict typifies the tough battles that must be won to secure this fragile wilderness. Now a new threat has emerged in the form of the proposed Lohara coal project.
Photo: Kishor Rithe.
The Ministry of Coal has allotted 10.88 sq. km. in the Lohara West and Lohara extn. Coal Block in Lohara village that is adjacent to TATR’s buffer zone to M/s Adani Power Limited for captive thermal power generation to meet the requirements of their 1,000 MW power plant at Tiroda in Gondiya district in Maharashtra. To undertake coal mining operations, additional land of about 1,750 ha. (1603.56 ha. of which is forest land) etc. will also be required for infrastructure, waste dumps, etc. The mine may also require a few compartments that are part of the proposed buffer of the TATR. The rapid EIA report produced by the project proponent acknowledged that all environmental aspects had not been considered prior to the allocation of land.
According to the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, new projects or activities, or expansion or modernisation of existing projects or activities based on their potential environmental impacts as indicated in the Schedule to the notification, cannot be undertaken, unless prior environmental clearance has been accorded. The report also admits that “mining is a site specific activity in which existing terrestrial configuration will be disturbed” and that “mining will induce changes in the quality of air, water, flora and fauna of the area.” The proposed mining area is situated partly in Lohara village and partly in the Junona Reserved Forest area, which is home to several Schedule I mammal and reptiles. A small breeding population of Sarus Cranes also thrives in and around the Junona area as do several other avian species.
Two tigresses and cubs have been sighted in the area. Cattle kills by tigers and leopards are commonly reported from here. Human-animal conflict is already rampant in the region and the coal mine will exacerbate the problem through habitat loss. The repercussions of open cast mines include sound pollution and ground vibrations from the use of explosives, silting and pollution of waterbodies due to the dumping of excavated waste materials and increase in road and rail traffic through the area. The EIA also asks for the diversion of the Chandrapur-Mul road (5.5 km.) that passes through the southern part of the mining lease area as it blocks substantial coal reserves. A new road will entail the clearing of more forest land.
The EIA report has been prepared on the basis of baseline environmental data collected over a period of less than three months. Despite the MoEF asking for a detailed ecological study, since the entire lease area is dense forest land and within the ecologically sensitive zone of 15 km. under the EIA Notification, 2006, this has not been carried out. The Committee had also suggested that the project proponents must consider acquiring alternate non-mineralised land for dumping and that the drainage should not be disturbed.
The report also claims that land for compensatory afforestation has been identified in lieu of the 1603.56 ha. of forest land that will be diverted for non-forest purpose, in accordance with the Forest Conservation Act. However, when the state government has failed to provide revenue land for the resettlement of four villages from inside the TATR, it is surprising that they have been able to find revenue or government land for compensatory afforestation required for the mining project.
At the second public hearing for the project, Lohara villagers opposed the project. However, the project proponent is attempting to convince them and obtain their support by promising good compensation for their land and employment in the mine.Forests help regulate the climate, store carbon and provide food and water security. Open-cast mining will release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. When most countries are making a move from coal-based power generation to non-conventional green alternatives, it is unfortunate that Indian authorities wish to follow the same destructive ways.
Write stating the following points against the Lohara mining project:
1. The location of the Lohara Coal Project in the vicinity of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is unacceptable.
2. Open cast mining will not only cause pollution and disturb wildlife, it will also aggravate climate change.
3. Alternate sustainable livelihood options must be created for locals that aid in conservation.
4. India should be investing in making existing thermal plants more productive. Coal mining will worsen the climate change crisis, which will overwhelm our country and render all development ambitions fructuous.
The Prime Minister of India,South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi – 110 011.
Kapil Sibal, Minister, Science and Technology,Department of Science & Technology, Technology Bhavan, New Mehrauli Road, New Delhi – 110016.
Shri P.B. Kalbhor, District Collector,The Chairman,Maharashtra Pollution Control Board &Public Hearing Committee,Tel.: 07172-255300E-mail:
Vijai Sharma, Secretary, MoEF,Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110 003. Tel.: +91-11-24360721. E-mail: