Union minister of environment and forests Kamal Nath has asserted the first users' right over natural wealth during his recent tour to Madhya Pradesh. Nath followed the statement with a letter to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh declaring that the state government should have the first users' right over the coal which is mined in the state.Nath said that it made both economic and environment sense to process coal or any other value addition job in close proximity to the mines as far as possible. This will enable the state government to maximise its revenue, generate employment from exploitation of its own natural resources, and manage its environment better.
A substantial part of coal mined in Madhya Pradesh is taken out of the state to coal washeries which have sprung up outside the state. "The irrationality of this movement is that about 30 per cent of the material comes out as waste when the coal is washed. This would mean that while the state loses an important source of employment, it also incurs exorbitant transportation cost on the 30 per cent of the material which will be washed off in any case," says an official in the ministry of environment and forests.
Ministry officials claim that "The concept of first users' right is an extension of the principle of giving primacy to the needs of forest dwellers and the tribals over the forests resources as included in the forest policy of 1988."
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