RAIPUR: On the occasion of World Environment Day today, over 1,000 residents of Hasdeo-Arand region, a rich coal reserve area, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to restrict coal mining in the eco-sensitive forests.
The residents of around 35-40 villages of the region held a conference at Madanpur village in Korba district and deliberated on the subject 'Challenges and Role of Gram Sabhas in Self-Governance and Environment Conservation'.
In the letter, they drew the PM's attention to the consequences of coal mining in their area.
"Last month, Prime Minister in his 'Mann Ki Baat' had mentioned his concern for environmental conservation and protection of forests," Convener, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA), Alok Shukla told PTI.
"In this context, tribal and forest dwelling villagers of the bio-diversity rich Hasdeo Arand wrote a letter to the PM reminding him that many of the government's policies and decisions were against the protection and conservation of the ecologically fragile dense forest regions, and sought his intervention in remedying such policies," he added.
The gathering, jointly organised by CBA and 'Hasdeo-Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti', discussed various issues and strategies for conservation of environment and reviewed many of the government's policies and decisions in this regard, Shukla said.
The villagers made reference to an earlier letter to the PM submitted by a delegation of villagers in New Delhi in January last year, which contained the resolution passed by 18 gram sabhas of Hasdeo-Arand region to restrict coal mining and protect the forests, he said.
"Despite the resolution passed by gram sabhas, the government went ahead and allotted 5 coal blocks of the region – Gidmudi, Paturia, Parsa, Parsa East and Kete Basan," he said.
The villagers alleged that the implementation of the Forest Rights Act has been poor in the region and that its provisions have been regularly violated.
Shukla claimed that the Forest department has been cutting forests on a large scale, seemingly to illegally clear way for mining companies.
The villagers appealed to PM to stop the process of dilution of the environment and tribal-friendly policies like Go/No-Go area.
Moreover, they requested the PM to ensure proper implementation of Forest Rights Act and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) provisions in Hasdeo-Arand, he added.
Hasdeo-Arand coalfield, spread over an area of 1,878 sq kms over Korba, Surguja and Surajpur districts in north Chhattisgarh, is located around 300 kms away from the state capital.
1,502 sq km of the total area has forest cover rich in biodiversity.
The coalfield, having total estimated reserves of 5.1709 billion tonnes, was declared as "no-go" zone for coal mining by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010.
This area is under threat due to the presence of a large number of coal blocks being identified for auction/allotment which will have disastrous environmental and social consequences, Shukla claimed.