Forest clearance given to Parsa coal block bypassing environmental concerns, constitutional rights of tribals

Forest clearance given to Parsa coal block bypassing environmental concerns, constitutional rights of tribals

Bhupesh government should cancel the forest approval without checking the fake Gram Sabha proposal – Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan

Raipur:Protest demonstration and 300-km foot-march by tribals of Surguja and Korba to save Hasdeo forest area from mining activities and villages situated here from being displaced went in vain as Union Forest and Environment Ministry on October 21, 2021 gave a go ahead to mining in the forest area. The approval has been granted for second stage of the project. The mine is allocated to Rajasthan State Power Generation Corporation Ltd while the MDO (Mine Developer and Operator) has been assigned to Adani Enterprises.

Opposing the approval, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan stated that without any investigation, government has granted approval under the pressure of Adani. The union stated that the project
will lead to complete displacement of two villages in the area while partial displacement of three villages. About one lakh trees on 841 hectares of land will be cut down in the process.

 



Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan convener Alok Shukla said that the land diversion for the Parsa mine is based on fake Gram Sabha documents. They demand unbiased investigation and action in this case. They added that residents of the Hasdeo area will continue agitation for the same.



Shukla said that without acknowledging the objections of the tribal population, the project has been approved due to pressure by Adani. This Forest Clearance must be nullified with immediate effect and action should be taken against the guilty for presenting fake documents.



Shukla said that stage one of the project was approved by the Central Ministry of Environment and Forest, on 13 February 2019. At that time, the villagers had raised objections to this project. As per the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006, the written approval of Gram Sabha is mandatory for forest right approval. The forest tribals stated that many of their claims
regarding forest rights are pending. They had also submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister and Governor.



However, stage one was approved by keeping Fifth Notification and PESA Act at bay. Without considering the complaints of people, Forest and Environment Ministry granted approval to the project. Now, the approval of the second stage has been granted in a similar manner. The process of forest land diversion of parsa mine is based on fake Gram Sabha documents which should be investigated, Shukla said. There has been a continuous movement of Hasdeo people demanding action since 2018, demanding cancellation of fake Gram Sabha documents and action against the guilty officials. The villagers of the Hasdeo forest area such as village Fattepur staged a sit-in for 73 days for the protection of the forest. To date, no action has been taken by the Collector on those complaints and no FIR has been registered despite the written complaint.



Recently, a large number of tribals took out a padayatra from the Hasdeo forest area and reached Raipur on October 13. They met with the Governor and the Chief Minister to protect their constitutional rights and the demands to cancel Gram Sabha’s fake decision.


Stage-I forest approval of the Parsa coal mining project was issued by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment on February 13, 2019, on which mining-affected villagers of the Hasdeo Aranya area filed an objection. According to the provision, before the forest clearance for any project, under the Recognition of Forest Rights Act 2006, the process of recognition of forest rights and written consent of the Gram Sabha is necessary. The claims are pending and the gram sabhas showed in village Hariharpur on January 24, 2018, and Salhi on January 27 2018, and Fatehpur village on August 26, 2017, were fakes and memorandums have been submitted to the Chief Minister and the Governor for investigation. without taking cognizance of the complaints of the villagers, the environment ministry took the decision under the pressure of the mining company. 

Under the fifth schedule area and the PESA Act, the rights of the Gram Sabha were flouted, which was issued Stage-I approval to the Parsa mine. Constantly protested by taking forward the same process without taking cognizance of the complaints of the people and in the process, issuing Stage-II approval without the meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests raises many questions in itself.

The entire Hasdeo Aranya was a no-go area in the year 2009 due to its rich biodiversity, the density of forests, and being an environmentally sensitive area. There was also a condition that no new coal project would be allowed in Hasdeo. The present government had sought consent letters from the gram sabhas, taking the decision to include this area in Lemru elephant as well.

The ICFRE report has recognized that mining will have irreversible impacts on the sector, which are difficult to compensate. Mining will also increase elephant-human conflict, as well as have a serious impact on the Bango Dam and the hydrology of the entire region. Coal mines are being sanctioned in Hasdeo keeping in view the environmental importance of this forest area and the livelihood, culture, and identity of the tribals as well as the constitutional privileges enjoyed by this area as the fifth schedule.