Skip to main content

National Green Tribunal refuses forest clearance to industry groups Essar, Hindalco, tribals celebrate "victory"

A rally in Mahan protesting against forest land allocation
By Our Representative
In a major ruling, National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s quasi-judicial environmental watchdog with powers of a High Court, has declared that the forest clearance granted to Essar and Hindalco’s Mahan Coal Ltd are invalid. This follows the Supreme Court order to de-allocate 214 coal blocks. The NGT’s decision is in response to a petition filed by members of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS), a people’s organisaion, which challenged the coal mine’s forest clearance. According to Greenpeace India’s estimate, the project would have led to the loss of approximately 5 lakh trees and affected the livelihoods of over 50,000 people in 54 villages of Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh.
Significantly, the Mahan coal block was initially rejected by former Environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh. However, it was granted in-principal (Stage I) approval by the MoEF on October 18, 2012, after substantial pressure from the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Coal Mining. This approval came with 36 conditions, which require a range of studies to be completed and the processes under the Forest Rights Act to be complied with.
In a statement, Greenpeace said, “The NGT’s decision has injected a new vigour in the forest dwellers who have been opposing the project for the last three years. To celebrate the landmark verdict, thousands of villagers in the region came together in a rally, vowed that they would not let the Mahan forests that they depend on fall into the clutches of coal mining again.”
“We welcome the NGT’s view on the forest clearance. Battling threats, illegal arrests and midnight police raids, we have come a long way. We know this might only be a temporary win, but our struggle will continue and we will oppose any future attempts to hand over these forests for mining,” Greenpeace quoted Kripanath Yadav, a resident of Amelia village and a member of MSS.
“Mahan is a perfect example of the growing opposition from communities to mining projects that destroy their forests. Companies would be foolhardy to risk their money bidding for a forested coal block where opposition to mining will be intense. This is also a vindication of the work Greenpeace has been doing – the ‘leaked IB report faulted us for demanding the forest rights of communities in Mahan, but the courts have shown that we were on the side of justice,” said Priya Pillai, member of MSS and senior campaigner with Greenpeace India.
While the Government of India has said it will move fast to auction the cancelled blocks, MSS and Greenpeace India have demand that it should immediately work for “revising the criteria for allocation of coal mines to exclude forest areas like Mahan, adding, they want shoddy implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the region to stop.
“While there are 54 villages dependant on the Mahan forests, community consent was sought from just one village – Amelia. The gram sabha resolution showing community consent was forged, with at least nine of the signatories having been deceased at that time of the meeting”, Greenpeace said, adding, “Under the FRA community forest rights must be recognized before consent is sought for any mining or infrastructure project.”
In the meantime, communities in five villages in the Mahan forest area have now filed community forest rights claims. “Their rights have not yet been recognised. The local administration has failed miserably in the implementation of FRA,” Pillai said, adding, In a bid to speed up clearances for big ticket mining and infrastructure projects, the government must not violate Acts such as the Forest Conservation Act, Environment Protection Act and Forest Rights Act.
There are 54 villages dependant on the Mahan forests of Singrauli. Community members from five villages (Amelia, Bandhaura, Budher,Suhira and Barwantola) in the Mahan forests have organised themselves under the banner of MSS to assert their forest rights and have been opposing the proposed Mahan coal mine (by Essar and Hindalco). After a public meeting in August 2013, six more villages joined the movement, further strengthening MSS.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.