INDIA: Chhattisgarh against bid to acquire proposed elephant reserve land for coal mining

INDIA: Chhattisgarh government is to protest against the Central notification to acquire roughly 712 hectares (ha) land in Madanpur South coal block in Hasdeo forest area, the proposed site for Lemru elephant reserve, for mining.

According to the notification, published on December 24, around 490 ha is protected forest land and 160 ha comprise revenue and other forest land.

The notification invokes the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, according to which, the Centre can issue a notice of intention to acquire if satisfied that coal is obtainable from a tract of land.

As per the senior officials in the state, the government will not “compromise” on this issue and will soon write to the Union coal ministry and also talk to the concerned minister.

“Chhattisgarh government will protest against the notification issued by the Central government over (its) intention of acquiring land of Madanpur south.

We will protest against two things – Firstly, the central government’s decision to acquire it under Coal Bearing Act and secondly, it comes under the proposed Lemru Elephant Corridor of Chhattisgarh. We are not going to compromise,” said Vinod Verma , the political advisor of Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh

Verma further said that two major rivers in the Hasdeo area –Hasdeo and Mand—will die because of mining in Madanpur south.

Activists claimed that the coal block is in the core area of Hasdeo Arand forest and it made no sense to acquire Madanpur south since the ministry of coal has withdrawn Madanpur North from the commercial coal block auction in September 2020 following Chhattisgarh’s objection.

“The coal block has been awarded to APMDC for commercial mining. How come mineral wealth of a state can be given to PSUs of other states for commercial sale?

One can even understand the allotment if the produced coal was supposed to be consumed by PSUs own power plants. Such an exercise of power by the central government through Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act is a clear attack on the federal structure,” said Sudiep Shrivastva , a lawyer and activist based in Chhattisgarh.

Shrivastava further said that the CB act only confers power to acquire land if the coal areas are to be mined and developed by the Central government and its PSUs.

In July 2020, Union minister of coal and mines Pralhad Joshi accepted the Chhattisgarh government’s suggestion to replace five coal blocks out of the nine blocks put under commercial coal auctions from the state. They included Morga -2, Morga (South), Madanpur north, Shyang and Fathehpur (east).

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In June, the Chhattisgarh government asked the Centre not to allow auction of coal blocks which fall under Hasdeo Arand, Lemru elephant reserve and the Mand river catchment area, which are biodiversity-rich forests.

“Firstly, when Madanpur north coal block was removed from the list of auctioning in July, why is the Central government acquiring land of Madanpur south, which is in the same area.

Secondly, the acquisition is the violation of PESA Act 1996 and Forest Rights Recognition Act,” said Alok Shukla, convener of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, which works for tribal rights in Chhattisgarh.

Shukla claimed that the notification overlooks the process of diversion of forest land. “The notification is not only an attack on the rights of the gram sabha but also the state government,” said Shukla.

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