RAIPUR: Surajpur district, in north Chhattisgarh, has taken an innovative route as an effective solution to a vexed issue of several abandoned mines lying idle without any reclamation process undertaken.
One such deserted mines of the Coal India Ltd (CIL) at Kenapara in Surajpur, about 350 km north of Raipur, has been converted to yield promising scope on tourism and a good source of livelihood for the poor and tribals.
Abandoned coal mine led to the creation of a huge water body covering an area of over 10.50 hectare with 1.75 km long stretch and a maximum depth of around 300 feet.
A survey was undertaken by the district administration around mid-2019 and came up with an idea on fish farming through submerged cage culture, developing site for boating with a floating restaurant for tourists.
The beautiful water body with adjoining greenery is just 200 metres from the national highway and boasts of immense possibility to yield livelihood and an additional source of income for inhabitants of neighbouring villages.
“We began the project on an experimental basis. With very encouraging results, we will execute the concept in another three sites (abandoned open mines). In the first phase, pisciculture and boating are generating sustainable livelihood for the locals. The novel initiative meets the focus of our CM Shri Bhupesh Baghel to create livelihood opportunities locally wherever possible”, said the Surajpur collector Deepak Soni.
A cooperative society of farmers — ‘Mahamaya Fisheries Society’ for pisciculture and the women organisation ‘Shiv Shakti Mahila Gram Sanghathan’ to manage the boating facility have been formed. Their members got trained on capacity building and skill.
“41 poor tribal households productively engaged with fisheries are benefited with a good source of income”, said Pitambar Sahu, president of the Society, which has put up 32 cages for pisciculture.
Each cage fetches around 2 ton of fishes.
“So far Society has earned Rs 15 lakh selling 17 tonnes of fish during the last four months”, Sahu informed.
Similarly, the women self-help groups (SHGs) from 186 poor households have been chosen for boating. “It’s improving our living conditions and reducing poverty for rural women. Since October last year our boating activity generated revenue of around 6 lakh for us”, revealed Lalmani Rajwade, who heads the women organisation. A floating restaurant leads to additional revenue of rupees one lakh every month.
The investment of Rs 1.97 crore was incurred by the South Eastern Coalfield Ltd of CIL under their ‘mine closure plan’ for the whole project at Kenapara.
“The future plan is to develop the site as an Eco-Ethnic tourism hub which will include landscaping, promotion of water sports, cottages for stay, cultural centre among others”, the district magistrate Soni revealed said.
“There is no dearth of abandoned mines left deserted with no effective reclamation being done after the coals were excavated through open cast mining in Chhattisgarh”, claimed social activist Laxmi Chouhan who moved National Green Tribunal for enforcing backfilling of abandoned mines.