The hasdeo aranya region in Chhattisgarh is considered as an environmentally very sensitive is again in controversy due to the protest which have has started against coal mining. In Hasdeo aranya region which is rich in biodiversity and ecologically sensitive, people from three villages and activists have again started protest against clearance given by Chhattisgarh’s forest department for the second phase of Parsa East Kente Besan (PEKB) coal mining project in this region. Several media reports suggest that the Chhattisgarh’s forest department on last Tuesday started felling trees for the second phase of coal mine. In many tribal villages such as Hariharpur, Salhi, Fatehpur, Ghatbarra, Charpada and Madanpur, people are protesting since March under the banner of ‘Save Hasdeo’ continuously demanding to stop coal mining in this region. This is one of the longest protests led by the indigenous communities and it is gaining continues support from different part of the country.
Coal Mining Project in Hasdeo
Congress led Chhattisgarh has approved the Persa coal mine in Hasdeo after getting green signal for coal mining in this region from the central government last year. The Persa coal mining project is big one and spread over an area of 1.252.447 hactares in three districts – Korba, Surguja and Surajpur. This entire region has covered 841, 538 hectares of area in which 410.909 hectares falls under forest land which are ecologically very sensitive. Total 23 new coal block of which seven has been given approval for coal mining by the central government. Later on, the state government had granted permission for coal mining in 841.538 hectare of forest land and 1.136.328 for PEKB phase- II mine to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited run by Adani Enterprises. This permission has been granted after meeting between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel in March this year. According to News reports the first phase of mining was granted permission by the state government over 762 hectare of land in PEKB block to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited in 2007 and it was started in 2013. Now the second phase of PEKB for coal mining has started in May this year and forest department has lunched tree cutting exercise under heavy police security deployments in Haddeo Aranya region. Whereas, the government has declare this entire region as ‘no-go-zone’ in 2009 but never implemented this policy till now and for this reason, coal mining in this area is still continued.
Why people are protesting?
Tribal people from many villages come together and started protesting after the central government granted permission for coal mining in Hasdeo Aranya in the last year. Many environmentalists are claiming that the government had falsely organized Gram shabha and passed the resolution for coal mining in this area instead of implementing ‘no-go-zone’ policy passed by the central government in 2009. Besides, the government has tried many times to convince the Gram Sabhas for this, but because of local pressure, authority could not success for giving project clearance. Later on they conducted closed-door meeting and pressurized the sarpanches and village chiefs to sign the consent document for coal mining in this area. This tactics of getting fake clearance by the authority expose the government approach towards the rich biodiversity and ecologically sensitive areas. Two significant studies have been conducted by the ICFRE and Wildlife Institute of India underlined how much biodiversity in this region is imported? And due to the government’s dual policy, coal mining is still continued will undoubtedly affects the environment lots. These studies have also addressed the issue of human-elephant conflicts and compare to other state, Chhattisgarh has less elephants due to clearing forests and the loss of habitat.
Tribal people from different villages such as Tara, Hariharpur, Fatehpur, Ghatbarra and Janardhanpur due to direct effect on their daily life are protesting since March 2, 2022 against these orders of clearance by the authority. Protesters claim that due to new allotment of PEKB phase- II for coal mining in this region, 700 families will be uprooted and many villages will be directly destroyed. Even before this, the entire affected indigenous communities sat on a 75 day dharna in 2019 and carried out three hundred kilometer long march to Raipur demanding the state government to stop the mining in this area. Several organizations including environmentalists and civil society activists have also participated in this protest march.
No difference between Congress and BJP
Congress ex-president Rahul Gandhi in 2015 visited in Hasdeo region in solidarity with the tribal people’s protest which was going on against the coal mining and he assured when the congress will came into the power no injustice will happened. Again in an interaction with the student in University of Cambridge, Rahul Gandhi accepted that the decision taken by the congress led Chhattisgarh government is against the tribal people and he also assured that he will discuss this issue within the party and will resolve. Besides, congress leader Rahul Gandhi has attacking on Adani openly in many public meeting but on the other hand congress government in both state allowed Adani and Ambani for investment. Congress led Chhattisgarh government has granted permission for coal mining in Hasdeo Aranya region to Rajasthan Rajya Vidhyut Utpadan Nigam Limited run by Adan enterprises and it has never objected by Rahul Gandhi in any public meeting. Similarly, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) led central government has also allowed Adani and Ambani in various projects for investment. The government also never implemented ‘No-go-zone’ policy till now in this area and in the last year granted permission for coal mining.
Omprakash Kushwaha teaches Journalism and Mass communication at Chandigarh University, Mohali Punjab