State’s lawmakers urge Union government to cancel coal blocks allocated in forests; Echo long-standing opposition by tribals, activists
Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution July 27, 2022 urging the Centre to cancel allocation of coal blocks in Hasdeo Aranya forests.
Tribal communities and activists have been opposing coal mining in the forests for a long time, fearing damage to its biodiversity.
There are five coal blocks in the region, which includes areas like Parsa, Parsa East Kete Basan (PEKB), PEKB Extension, Gidhmuri Paturia, Madanpur South and Chotia.
MLA Dharmjeet Singh of the opposition Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) had moved the private member resolution in the legislative Assembly.
Singh said mining in the area would destroy the dense forests and trigger human-elephant conflict. “I urge the Chhattisgarh government to take up the matter with the Centre and immediately cancel mining projects,” the MLA said.
The MLA added that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also assured natives of Madanpur village of fighting for their rights.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel told the House Centre holds the reins of allottment of coal blocks.
“Centre decides to whom a block should be allocated,” said Baghel, adding that statements saying the state government makes the decision are misleading.
“Chhattisgarh has declared 1,995 square kilometres of the forest as Lemru Elephant reserve and demanded the Centre to halt allocation of mines there,” the CM added.
Even though the main source of power generation is coal, we have extended support to the private member resolution, Baghel said.
BJP legislator Ajay Chandrakar also said Chhattisgarh government should cancel no-objection certificate (NOC) given for the mines.
“The unanimous decision to pass the resolution by the Chhattisgarh Assembly is praiseworthy,” Alok Shukla, member of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan told Down to Earth. The organisation working for the rights of tribals in the state
The state government should withdraw the order for the final environmental clearance to the Palsa and Palsa East Ketevasan Phase II coal block at the earliest, he added.
“The Narendra Modi-led central government should also immediately cancel the allottment of all 5 coal blocks allotted in the Hasdeo forests,” he said. “This will win the trust and respect of the Assembly, the citizens of the state as well as the Gram Sabhas.”
Passing the resolution is a very welcome move, however, Chhattisgarh government should not have collaborated on this project in the first place, Shankar Gopalakrishnan told DTE. He is a member of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national forum for tribal and forest dwellers.
“I doubt that the Centre will listen to the House resolution, but I still think it is necessary to raise voices against it,” Gopalakrishnan said.
The Chhattisgarh government had earlier granted permission for non-forestry use of 841.53 hectare of forest land for the Parsa mine (Surguja and Surajpur districts) and 1,136.33 hectares for PEKKB phase-II mine (Surguja).
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