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Activists flag BJP government's tree cutting drive in Chhattisgarh forest for mining by Adani

Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a joint forum of people’s movements in the state, Prashant Bhushan and several activists claimed that the Union ministry for environment and forest (MoEF) had categorised Hasdeo forest as a 'no-go' zone for mining because of the density of trees, wildlife and ecology

Basant Kumar Mohanty New Delhi Published 03.01.24, 06:24 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

An umbrella body of civil society groups, activists and lawyers on Tuesday alleged that the BJP government in Chhattisgarh had started cutting trees in a coal block area inside Hasdeo forest immediately after coming to power to facilitate mining by the Adani group.

Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA), a joint forum of people’s movements in the state, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and several activists claimed that the Union ministry for environment and forest (MoEF) had categorised Hasdeo forest as a “no-go” zone for mining because of the density of trees, wildlife and ecology.

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The Union coal ministry had in 2011-12 allocated over 200 coal blocks, including some in Hasdeo forest, to various companies. The MoEF had given forest clearance, too. However, the National Green Tribunal cancelled the forest clearance in 2014 and asked the government to study if any conservation zone could be created for the wildlife and the flora and fauna.

The government tasked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) with the study.

In 2021, the WII expressed concern about the threat to wildlife if coal mining was allowed in Hasdeo. The ICFRE expressed a similar concern but gave an alternative of developing a conservation zone outside which mining could be undertaken.

Based on the ICFRE report, the MoEF gave fresh forest clearance in 2022 for coal mining in Hasdeo.

Based on a proposal of the Chhattisgarh government, the coal ministry allocated four coal blocks to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam (RRVUN), which has signed a mine development and operation agreement with the Adani group for mining activities.

After the new government took over, activities have suddenly picked up in the area. On December 21, 22 and 23, large-scale tree cutting was carried out under heavy police protection, according to Alok Shukla, convener of the CBA. “For any mining activity, gram sabha consent has to be taken. But the government has started cutting forests before obtaining gram sabha consent for any coal mining,” Shukla told reporters.

He said the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state were working with the single objective of benefiting the Adani group.

Bhushan said mining could not be allowed in the “no-go” area. He said the mining lease given to the Rajasthan PSU was an indirect way of allocating the resources to Adani. “The government has declared the Hasdeo forest as a ‘no-go’ or ‘inviolate’ area where mining cannot be allowed. This has been ignored and a mining lease given to a Rajasthan PSU, which has done a deal with Adani,” said Bhushan.

The CBA alleged that some of the activists were detained when the large-scale cutting of trees was carried out.

“Now we demand that proper gram sabha must be conducted in the coal block areas before cutting trees or starting mining,” Shukla said.

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