Skip to main content

With cops' help? 40,000 trees cut in western Odisha for establishing open pit coalmine

Tree felling in Talabira forests under police protection
By Prafulla Samantra*
In the same week as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) summit, as world's leaders discuss climate change, in the industrial belt of Western Odisha, more than 40,000 trees were cut in Talabira forest on December 9 and 10 for establishing an open pit coalmine. 
On December 11, local authorities have moved the felling to Patrapalli village, 3 km away from Talabira – threatening to destroy forest that the villagers have protected for the last four decades.
This tree-felling follows the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)’s Stage II clearance to divert 1,038 hectares of forest land for an opencast coal mining project called Talabira II and III coal blocks in March 2018.
Villagers emphatically say that they never gave their consent for the diversion of the forest land required by the Stage I clearance letter and that their rights under the Forest Rights Act haven’t been settled.
Thus, the official Stage II permission appears to be based on forged Gram Sabhas Resolutions. The Patrapali village has submitted claims for Community Forest Rights (CFRs) on their forests which are still pending. On these grounds the Stage II clearance is illegal.
The proposed Talabira II and III blocks coal mining project belongs to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India and is located in the Jharsugda and Sambalpur districts of Odisha. SCs and STs comprise almost 60% of the population affected by the project. 
The 1,038 ha of forest land included in the mining project are natural forests dominated by Sal trees, which have been actively protected by villagers for the last 40-50 years. This region of Odisha has some of the oldest and most established community forest protection in the state and are one of the last big forest patches in the whole area, surrounded by mines and industries.
Village communities have formed traditional village forest committees which have been protecting forests for decades, either through patrolling by community members or by watchmen paid through voluntary contribution by villagers.
The community-protected forests affected by the Talabira coal mine not only act as the sole green lungs of this highly industrialized and polluted zone, but also the last refuge of dwindling wildlife in the area. Villagers say that bar tigers almost all wildlife is present in these forests. Elephants are regular visitors to these forests.
The Forest Rights Act is applicable to these forests and villagers’ community forest resource (CFR) rights should have been recognized. One of the villages, Patrapalli, has already submitted CFR claims, which are still pending. Furthermore, under the Forest Rights Act, villagers consent is required for any diversion of forest lands. (See section xxxiii in the Forest Clearance Letter for Phase I)
Villagers allege that they have not provided this consent and the district administration has submitted forged Gram Sabha Consent letters. In fact, village communities have passed strong Gram Sabha resolutions rejecting the proposed diversion of forests for the coal-mine. Thus, Stage II clearance of the project is illegal and contravenes not only the Forest Rights Act but also the Prevention of Atrocities Act as majority of the population is SC/ST.
The current situation is extremely worrying. In the presence of more than 10 platoons of police force, the forest protected by Talabira village has already been cut. The locals estimate that more than 40,000 trees have been felled using machines and the land has been levelled. Now the police force has surrounded the Patrapalli village and their tree felling is expected to start soon. The whole area has been cordoned off by police forces and the local villagers are terrorized.
At a time when India needs to protect its forests to fight against climate change, forceful destruction of forests protected by communities over decades without their consent to mine climate-killer coal, is a climate crime.
It is especially tragic since this verdant forest nurtured by marginalized forest communities is one of the last forests left in Sambalpur-Jharsuguda industrial belt, an area where climate change fueled temperatures tend to reach 48 degrees Centigrade in summer.
A climate crime and injustice to tribal and forest dwellers, democratic-minded individuals should come together and oppose this gross violation of rights of the communities and law.
---
*Winner of Goldman Environmental Prize for 2017

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”