Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Coalmines expansion in India's tribal belt forced on people without human rights impact assessment: Amnesty

By Our Representative
A new study by well-known international NGO, Amnesty International, basing on on-the-spot interviews around three coal mines of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, has said that despite a “raft of laws” requiring Indian authorities to consult or seek consent from adivasis, the “requirements are regularly flouted.”
The interviews – conducted in areas around South Eastern Coalfields Limited’s Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh, Central Coalfields Limited’s Tetariakhar mine in Jharkhand, and Mahanadi Coalfields Limited’s Basundhara-West mine in Odisha – lead the study to conclude that adivasis, who traditionally have strong links to land and forests, “have suffered disproportionately from development-induced displacement and environmental destruction in India.”
Titled "When Land is Lost, Do we Eat Coal? Coal Mining and Violations of Adivasi Rights in India”, “About 70 per cent of India’s coal is located in the central and eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, where over 26 million members of Adivasi communities live, nearly a quarter of India’s adivasi population.”
Based on research conducted between January 2014 and June 2016, the study says, authorities “have not conducted any sort of meaningful human rights impact assessment at any stage of expansion of the Kusmunda mine. ” It adds, “The adivasi communities who are likely to be displaced by the expansion are not named in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.”
Pointing out that there is “no reference to the fact that the mine exists in a constitutionally-protected Fifth Schedule district”, the report says, “Every person interviewed in the villages of Barkuta, Pali,
Padaniya, Barpali or Padaniya said they were neither consulted nor interviewed as part of the impact assessment process.”
“The EIA also does not analyze the ways in which these communities currently use water, wood and other natural resources, or how they grow crops and their traditional land usage, and how these could be affected by the mining project”, the study says.
Underlining that the EIA does not even consider “the damage that is likely to be caused to traditional and existing livelihoods and the impact any such effects could have on the culture of the Adivasi communities”, the study says, “It also fails to analyze or consider the impact of the influx of outsiders and machinery from the existing mine or its proposed expansion.”
Analyzing different laws, the study particularly criticizes the Coal Bearing Areas Act, 1957, under which “there is no requirement for authorities to pay compensation before taking possession of land”, the says, adding, “The law has no provisions for ensuring that human rights impact assessments are conducted prior to land acquisition proceedings.”
In Kusmunda, which one of India’s largest coal mines, covering about 2,382 hectares (ha), the proposal for expansion – involving the acquisition of additional 1,051 ha land in the five villages (Amgaon, Churail, Khodri, Khairbawna and Gevra), where 13,000 people live – was published through “a notification in the official government gazette”, which was not made public.
While the government did invite objections to be submitted within 30 days, the notice was “pasted on the wall of the office of the panchayat, and people did not come to know anything about it”, the study quotes an adivasi as saying. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Coal's plan to acquire land in the five affected villages remains a suspense.
Similarly, in Tetariakhar, Jharkhand, where the the Ministry of Coal published a notification on August 18, 2015, the official government gazette declaring its intention to acquire 49 ha in Nagara and 25 hectares in Basiya villages under the CBA Act, yet local communities were “unaware” about it, and had “only heard rumours that more of their land was going to be acquired.”

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