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No follow-up action on Bhavnagar lignite mining disaster, complain environmentalists

Land rise because of lignite mining (left), district officials' visit (right)
By Our Representative
Gujarat’s well-known environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), in a letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India and the Gujarat chief secretary and other concerned officials, have regretted that a month after their complaint about a disaster at the Badi-Hoidad lignite mining site, Bhavnagar district, on November 16, authorities have taken no follow-up action to ascertain the reasons and take remedial steps.
Seeking urgent cancellation of the environment clearance, consent and authorisation for mining to the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL), involved in lignite mining in the region, the letter accuses, GPCL, a state-owned enterprise, for being little concerned about violating environmental norms.
The PSS letter says, “It is utterly shocking and surprising that there is no reply or response to our letters dated November 26 and November 30”, even though attention was drawn before the authorities about the disaster.
It rues, “The company decided to ignore a similar disaster that occurred last year in December 2019 in the same mining area”, pointing out, “The December 2019 disaster was put on record and informed to you by us, which the company has also accepted and admitted.”
The letter says, despite the November 16 disaster, not even the basic information has "shared with the local panchayats through advertisement in the newspaper or news channel or through press conference to the villagers staying next to the disaster site as to what precautionary measures they should take in case of such a mishap.” 
It adds, the authorities’ inertia has continued despite the site visit led by assistant collector, Bhavnagar, Pushp Lata, with “team members, mamlatdar, the regional officer of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), officers of the industries and mining department, officers of the GPCL” in the presence of the two environmentalists and the affected villagers. An expert committee, with a geologist, also reportedly visited the site, yet nothing is known about what it has recommended. 
The disaster was witnessed by villagers, who had gathered for Gujarati new year celebration on November 16. They found a huge raising of the farmland of up to 30-40 feet. Shocked to see that the land rose for a length of about 700 meters, they also saw a large mound of topsoil dumped by GPCL there. GPCL contractors have been doing mining in this area since 2018.
Things became known after a video went viral on November 17. Bharat Jambucha, an activist working on the issue of water recharging and organic farming of Paniyali village in Bhavnagar district, took stock of what had happened and rang up PSS activists, who reached the site on November 24.
On their visit to the site later that day, the villagers expressed their concern about the disaster caused by mining. On December 2, GPCB staff took 16 groundwater samples of seven villages in the region, but their income is still not known, the letter suggests, insisting on the immediate need to fence the affected area and bar entry with public warning notices to the effect that it is a disaster-prone zone.

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