Chhattisgarh government has ignored the report of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and have recently granted stage II clearance for Parsa Coal block in Hasdeo Arand Area.
The report submitted weeks ago came to light recently and highlights some very strong reasons to discontinue coal mining in one of the most dense forest patches of central India.
Answering one of the seven questions asked by the NGT order among other observations, the report says that the Hasdeo Arand Coal Fields and the landscape surrounding it should be declared a NO-GO area.
In 2011 while the MoEFCC gave stage I clearance of Parsa East Kente Basan (PEKB), the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) recommended cancellation of the allotment. The recommendation however, went unheard and stage II clearance for PEKB was given in 2012 and a year later the mine became operational.
Aggreived by the allotment, a petition against the allotment was filed in the principal bench of NGT court by Sudiep Shrivastava. NGT then ordered the MoEFCC to seek advise from the FAC. It also advised to rope in Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and Wildlife Institute of India for the same. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.
In 2017 the MoEFCC granted clearance for the Kente Extension on the condition that the report on the biodiversity of HACF from ICFRE and WII will be taken and considered.
What Does the WII report say?
The 277-page report highlights that over 80 percent of the Hasdeo Arand Coal Fields and the landscape surrounding it is forested and all coal blocks lie within the forest.
The report further says that the situation of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Chhattisgarh is a paradox with a relatively low number of elephants (<300, which is <1 percent of India’s wild elephant population) but higher number of incidents of HEC with over 60 humans succumbing to these conflicts every year (>15 percent of the reported human deaths due to HEC).
Answering questions asked by the NGT in its judgement on 24 March 2014, the report concluded that the PEKB coal blocks is/was habitat to rare, endangered, and threatened fauna.
Respoding to whether or not the permission for mining be granted in Hasdeo, the report said that a part of PEKB is operational and the mining should be restricted to this limit only.
"Keeping in view the unique, priceless, and rich biodiversity and socio-cultural values, the area around Hasdeo Aranya Cold Field should be declared as no-go area."WII's report
The report also conveyed that Hasdeo Arand was and is the habitat as well as the migratory corridor for elephants, it also confirmed sightings of tigers, and it connects with the Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary and Kanha Tiger Reserve and may support sporadic tiger reversal.
On the demographic situation of Hasdeo Arand, the report clarified that locals are predominantly tribals and that their livelihood is closely dependent on the forests.
"The NTFP collection (of four major commodities) contribute nearly 46 percent of the monthly income reported by the households. This does not include the fuelwood, fodder, medicinal plants, water, and other resources that local communities collect from the forests. If such resources are pooled as income to local communities, it may be conservatively mentioned that over 60 to 70 percent of the total annual income of local communities come from forest-based resources."WII report
Alok Shukla Convener of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan while talking to The Quint said, "The report was very conveniently concealed by the government and the ICFRE helped them by recommending clearances to the four coal blocks, which will be operated by Adani Group. This is totally against Humans, the forests and the environment."
"It's a conspiracy against the forests, the wildlife, the tribals concocted by Bhupesh Baghel, Ashok Gehlot and Modi to facilitate profits to the Adani group."Shukla
Chhattisgarh's Health Minister T S Singhdeo took to Twitter and said: