The Ministry of Coal has withdrawn five coal blocks from Chhattaigsarh’s densely forested areas of Hasdeo Arand and Maand from the proposed commercial auctioning list.
The decision was taken in the wake of intense public anger over the matter with the forests also serving as the catchment area for the Hasdeo and Maand rivers. The coal blocks, namely Morga 2, Morga South, Madanpur North, Syang and Fatehpur East, were classified as ‘No-Go’ zones in a study conducted in 2010 when Jairam Ramesh was the environment minister.
It was then contended that every region has more coal outside the densely forested areas. This has been proved right with the three new coal blocks that have replaced the five forested areas have almost similar coal deposits.
The new coal blocks added to the list are Dolesara that is fully explored, and Jarekela and Jhalarpalam-Tangarghat that are partially explored.
Following the Centre’s announcement of auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining by private players in June this year, the Jharkhand government had moved the Supreme Court opposing the move.
The Chhattisgarh government had also urged the Centre to reconsider coal blocks included in Hasdeo Arand and Maand forests as they fall in dense forests and are biodiversity-rich areas.
On August 1, Union minister for Coal and Mines Prahlad Joshi had met Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and later, told reporters that five contentious blocks will be excluded from the auction list and three new blocks will be added instead in accordance with the government’s suggestion.
On June 20, Chhattisgarh Forest minister Md Akbar had written to Joshi informing him that following an increase in the numbers of wild animals and a subsequent rise in man-animal conflicts, the state government has proposed to declare an area of 1,995 square km around the Hasdeo river as reserve forest for elephants. A notification on the same was under progress, the minister said while raising objections to the coal block allocations.
Initially, nine coal blocks in the northern part of the state were included in the auction list and five of them, namely Madanpur North, Morga 2, Morga South, Sayang and Fatehpur East, had been classified as ‘no-go’ zones.
Previously Bander coal block was also withdrawn from the list following opposition from the Maharashtra government. The Bander block is situated in the Tadoba Abdhari Tiger Reserve.
The Marwatola of Madhya Pradesh also falls in the tiger corridor, while two others among the auction list in the state are classified as ‘no-go’ zones. Similarly, three of the nine blocks in Jharkhand and one of the 10 blocks in allocated in Odisha fall in densely forested areas.