Fourteen of the 23 coal blocks at the Hasdeo Arand coal deposit are not expected to receive mining permits to protect the region’s dense forest areas that are home to a large herd of elephants, a study recommended.
According to a study by the Indian Forest Research and Education Council to assess the floral and wildlife biodiversity of the coal basin, mining work was likely to raise environmental concerns in the region.
“Land-use changes associated with mining will adversely affect forest cover / density, forest type and forest fragmentation. In addition, forest fragmentation will contribute to decreased patch / corridor connectivity, increased edge effect, changed microclimate, and the promotion of invasive species if adequate mitigation measures are not taken. taken, ”says the study.
These fourteen coal blocks are located in the Chornai and Ton-Teti watersheds in the Handeo Arand region, which totals 1,879.6 square kilometers.
“The report has been submitted to us but the recommendations will be considered by the government and will be submitted to the cabinet first. So far, the government’s decision on the report is not finalized,” Forestry Minister Mohammad Akbar said. .
The study further recommended that four contiguous coal blocks located in the Gej-Jhink watershed – Tara, Parsa, Parsa East Kanta Basan (PEKB) and Kente Extension – which are either already open or in the process of being obtained. regulatory approvals – can be considered for mining with strict environmental guarantees, including appropriate conservation measures for the management of surface water and biodiversity.
“The biodiversity study report was submitted to the state government about 15 days ago and is under review.
The necessary actions regarding the report should be discussed within the government and subsequently it would be forwarded to the Union government with the recommendations of the state government, ”said Rakesh Chaturvedi, senior chief forest conservator of the Chhattisgarh.
The study was conducted in eighteen months from 2019 to February 2021. The study area was the entire Hasdeo-Arand coal deposit (HAC), consisting of 23 coal blocks, which are located in part at Udaipur tehsil from Surguja district, Premnagar tehsil from Surajpur district, Poundi Uproda and Korba tehsils from Korba district in Chhattisgarh.
The study was led by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 after activist Sudeip Shrivastva challenged the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Stage 2 authorization for Parsa East & Kanta Basan (PEKB) attributed to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL). In its judgment, NGT quashed the said land clearing and an appeal was filed by RVUNL.
In 2019, during the hearing of the said appeal, the Supreme Court questioned the conformity of the NGT directive and five years after the order, the study began.
The study further observed that infrastructure development and mining will adversely affect habitat quality due to fragmentation and mitigation, which will be a huge challenge. The effect of mining on elephant habitat may not be reflected in the same habitat, but could be a silent trigger for human-elephant conflict (HEC) in other areas of the landscape.