Compensatory afforestation: Eye on used-up Coal India mines

Once these lands are accepted for compensatory afforestation, they will be notified and brought under control of state forest department

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Monday 13 January 2020

Land reclaimed from exhausted Coal India Ltd (CIL) mines will be used for compensatory afforestation (CA), the Union ministries for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and for Coal (MoC) have decided, a source in the government said.

The decision to use restored and biologically reclaimed, mined-out, non-forest land was taken in a meeting of the two ministries on September 3, 2019.

“The proposal to use reclaimed land for CA came from the MoC. The coal mines, in addition to the forest land, also have non-forest land, which, after reclamation, stays unused. If it can be used to undertake CA, it shall help us achieve international afforestation targets,” a senior MoEF&CC official, who did not wish to be named, told Down to Earth.

The ministry conveyed the decision to the chief secretaries of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Bihar and West Bengal through letters on October 17, 2019.  

“This is to inform that after further examination of the matter in the Ministry in consultation with the Ministry of Coal, it has been revealed that considerable restored, non-forest, mined out areas are available with Coal India Limited and its subsidiaries, which can be used for raising compensatory afforestation, in lieu of their proposals submitted for prior approval of the Central Government under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” the letter said.

“The Forest Conservation Division of the MoEF&CC will issue an advisory to the concerned state governments, conveying its in-principle agreement to accept such lands for raising CA,” it continued.

“An undertaking to this effect shall be submitted by the CIL/Subsidiary along with the respective diversion proposal, in lieu of which such restored lands will be used for raising CA,” it said.

Whenever forest land is diverted for non-forestry purposes like mining or infrastructure development under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, an equal area of non-forest land or twice the area of degraded forest land is to be planted over as CA. The idea is to offset the loss of diverted forest cover.

The process of doing CA starts with the project proponent identifying land for CA and proposing the same to the state forest department. If the state forest department approves the proposal, then the project proponent pays for the land, which is transferred to the forest department. The forest department then undertakes plantation work on that land.

“Currently, the MoC is gathering data on how much land CIL and its subsidiaries possess, which can be used for CA,” the official said. 

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