In the Talabira village of Odisha's Sambalpur district, around 40,000 trees have been cut to make way for a coal mine, a report by DownToEarth stated on Tuesday, 10 December.The Union Ministry of Envrionment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on 28 March this year, had given Stage 2 clearance to channnelize 1,038.187 hectares of forest land for an opencast coal mining project.The project is being directed by Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India Limited in Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts.According to a site inspection report of the Chief Conservator of Forest, Sambalpur, it involves the cutting down of 1,30,721 trees.Back in 2018, the NLC had signed a mine development and operator contract with the Adani Group.Even though the government has given the green signal for the area to be diverted, the forest has been protected and conserved by the forest dwellers in the village, along with five other hamlets in the area.64,000 Trees to be Felled by Yogi Govt in Lucknow For Defence ExpoWhat Are the Villagers Saying?The village residents have formed an organisation called Talabira Gramya Jungle Committee. They had even appointed a guard whom they paid three kilograms of rice per family in return for protecting the forest.Hemant Kumar Raut, a resident of Khinda hamlet said, “We have protected this forest for more than 50 years. Around 3,000 people are dependent on this forest. which is around 970 hectares in area. Now, these trees are being cut down by the government for coal.”The villagers, even though have protected the forest since years, have not filed any titles under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.Responding to this, Raut said, “We thought that this is our forest and no one can take it from us. We never thought that our forest could be taken away. Therefore, we never applied for rights under FRA.”Raut added that it was only when he and his neighbours went to the district collector, that they were told the forest was the government's property and they had no right or say in whatever the government chose to do with it.“The FRA rules, 2012, require that the concerned officials raise awareness about the Act and its provisions. This is especially important if no claims are forthcoming and can enable the process of filing claims,” stated Kanchi Kohli, senior researcher, Namati Environmental Justice Programme, Centre for Policy Research.However, Raut stated that no such awareness campaigns were carried out by the officials. Moreover, the villagers have claimed that the district officials fabricated Gram Sabha consent for carrying out mining.(With inputs from DowntoEarth)SC Restrains Maharashtra Govt from Felling Trees for Metro Project We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.