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Adani coalmining project to decimate forests, villages, farmlands, 'disturb' elephant routes

Counterview Desk 

India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), expressing support to struggling villagers, has demanded withdrawal of the proposed coal mining project by the Adanis at Gondalpura, Jharkhand, in order to "protect their farms, forests and biodiversity".
In a statement, NAPM said, "The coal mine is likely to obliterate over 500 hectares of farms, dwellings and forests, generating over 229 million tonnes of solid waste. At least five villages including Gondalpura, Phulang, Hahe, Balodar and Gali would be affected adversely by the project."

Text:

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) extends solidarity to the villagers protesting since many months against Adani’s proposed mine at the Gondalpura coal block in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. It is distressing that both the Centre and the State have paid no heed to the grave concerns raised by the moolvasi and adivasi villagers (including SCs, STs and OBCs) who are keen to safeguard their lands, river and forest resources from ‘developmental’ destruction.
The Gondalpura coal block, with an estimated 176 million tonnes of coal reserves was auctioned off to the Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) in November, 2020, as part of the e-auction for 41 coal blocks, for commercial mining, initiated by the Prime Minister. While the financial cost of this project is estimated to be close to Rs 1 lakh crore, there seems to be little concern for the severe and long-term social and environmental costs.
As per available records, the coal mine is likely to obliterate over 500 hectares of farms, dwellings and forests, generating over 229 million tonnes of solid waste. At least five villages including Gondalpura, Phulang, Hahe, Balodar and Gali would be affected adversely by the project. Coal mining activities in the district have already impacted the nearby villages, and hence there is intense resentment to the current project from the people, based on past experience.
While attempts were made to seek clearances and initiate project work in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic, surveyors sent by the district administration, NABARD and few Adani’s officials were not entertained and reportedly chased off by the villagers on a couple of occasions, in the later half of 2021. The villagers of Gali and their Village Forest Conservation Committee also formally objected to proposals of the government seeking ‘Gram Sabha consent’ for the project related surveys, in Dec 2021.
Notably, the villagers have been up in arms against previous attempts of the government as well (since 2006) to open up the area for coal mining. The coal block was then allocated to the Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Limited (TVNL). Villagers fiercely opposed the ‘public hearing’ in 2012, conducted amidst heavy police presence. All this indicates their staunch and consistent refusal to allow mining operations on their lands.
The area under question includes 513.18 hectares of land, of which 219.65 hectares is forest land. The farm land is fertile, which makes agriculture an important source of sustenance for the villagers. Crops like rice, sugarcane, wheat and mustard are part of the cultivation here. A sizable chunk of land is also community land used for grazing, gathering firewood etc.
The area is also rich in biodiversity and serves as a wildlife habitat. Villagers state that the project authority is not presenting an accurate picture of the diverse range of flora and fauna in the forest and is showing the areas as sparsely forested and inhabited by only few wild animals, on the project-related documents.
If the coal project moves ahead despite the villagers’ resistance, it will decimate villages, farmlands and forests. Villagers are also worried that the already affected elephant routes will be further disturbed by the coal mining activity, resulting in crop loss and danger to human habitation. They also feel such extensive coal mining would have severe climatic impacts over time, including erratic crop cycles and unseasonal rains etc.
Concerns have also been expressed regarding the pollution that would be caused to the Badmahi river, an important lifeline of the region. Environmental experts fear that the actual waste generated due to mining, could be much higher than indicated by project proponents and this would imply an additional land destruction of 103.26 hectares, over and above land used for the actual mining.
Gondalpura coal block, which is part of the North Karanpura mining block, was scheduled in MoEF’s ‘No-Go Zone (Category-A areas) indicating that any mining activity here would have serious adverse impact on forests and wildlife and even with afforestation and reclamation, it would not be possible to restore the region’s biodiversity.
Questions have also been raised about the circumstances in which the coal block was auctioned to AEL and the approach of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF in diluting its own previous requirements and overlooking its past minutes, especially on the pollution and depletion of the Badmahi river and the forest biodiversity.
In the above context, we extend our full solidarity to the villagers of Gondalpura, Phulang, Hahe, Balodar and Gali, fighting the state and mega corporations like Adani, to protect their lands, forests and livelihoods.
We demand that:
  • The Government of India must immediately revoke the decision to permit coal mining by Adani Enterprises Limited at the Gondalpura coal block.
  • No process/ survey work/ land acquisition must be undertaken in violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Environment Protection Act, 1986, Biological Diversity Act, 2002, Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, PESA Act, 1996 and the judgements of the Supreme Court on mining and rights of Gram Sabha.
  • As per its commitments in global fora, India must proactively de-prioritize coal-based mining and shift towards environmentally sustainable, non-displacing modes of renewable energy generation.

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