ANGUL: THE Jagannath coal project at Talcher, linked to Talcher Thermal Power Station (TTPS), has got a new lease of life, with the possession of Rakash reserve forest. The mine will now run for another two years with expected production of 20,000 tonnes per day.
The coal project was in dire need of the land to run the Jaganath coalmine, which was on the verge of closure. But, Rakash villagers were opposing the possession and tree felling on that part of forest demanding resettlement first. The land constraint was acute to the extent that it had the capacity to mine coal for four months only. Instead of daily normal production of 40,000 tonnes, only 6,000 tonnes was produced in the mine, one of the mega coalmines of MCL.
Though this patch of reserve forest of 9.7 hectares was duly acquired two years back and all clearances were obtained from the Centre and the State, Rakash villagers did not allow the MCL to cut trees demanding resettlement in Boulapur village. However, this was opposed by people of neighbouring Natada as the resettlement site was located close to their village.
With no solution in sight, the issue lingered for two years amid series of meetings at sub-division, district and Chief Secretary levels. In the meantime, coal supply to TTPS, that is linked to the State Government, came down due to land constraint and low production. On some occasions, police forces were mobilised to the spot in Rakash reserve forest, only to return following opposition from Rakash villagers. The issue was a cause of concern for both MCL and the district administration.
On Wednesday, Collector Anil Kumar Samal decided to fell the trees on the acquired land and simultaneously hand over the resettlement site to the villagers. Accordingly, 250 police personnel, led by the SP, rushed to the spot along with Director (Operation) of MCL, JP Singh, following which, the 300-odd agitating villagers courted arrest and later got bail. The coal authorities immediately took over the land and started mining operation on Wednesday night itself.
On Thursday, the district administration also took possession of the patch of land in Boulapur village for resettling Rakash villagers.