ROURKELA: As Hemgir villagers continue their protest against MCL for the ninth consecutive day, the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) seems to be caught on the wrong foot for reportedly declaring that it uses the special coal corridors for transporting coal from its Kulda mines without trespassing residential areas.
Accusing the MCL authorities of making false declarations, the agitators, who reportedly have support of political parties, are adamant not to allow coal transportation through village areas. The protest has disrupted coal supply to Chhattisgarh through Bankibahal-Taparia Major District Road (MDR) since January 19.
Documents in possession of TNIE reveal that MCL had applied for expansion of its Kulda Open Cast Project (KOCP) from 10 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) to 14 MTPA, to the Ministry of Forest, Environment & Climate Change on January 10, 2020 and was allowed continuation of the earlier environment clearance order. On March 27, 2020, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) issued a fresh consent order to the coal major for discharge of sewage and trade effluents.
MCL, in its submission, claimed that ‘coal transportation is being carried out as per the provisions and route proposed in the approved Mining Plan. Transportation of coal through the existing road passing through any village has been avoided. Special corridors have been constructed thus bypassing the neighbouring villages.’
However, the villagers protesting at Taparia village allege that MCL’s claims are untrue. They expressed serious concerns over damage to village roads, farmland and crops due to flying coal dust apart from threat to livelihood of collectors of minor forest products.
The leader of the agitators Tejram Sa said apart from the Bankibahal-Taparia MDR, roads passing through middle of Ratansara, Ratanpur, Gopalpur and Bileimunda villages and few other residential areas are bearing the brunt of coal transportation but MCL falsely claims that it uses special coal corridors. While general manager of MCL’s Basundhara Area N Jha was not available for comment, a senior MCL officer said it would be wrong to hold the company responsible for road transportation of coal by clients.
“MCL has created the Kanika-Duduka coal corridor worth `232 crore for coal movement from mines to railway sidings. For the dedicated coal corridor from Bhedabahal to Bankibahal, MCL has given `432 crore to the State government and work has recently been started by the Works department. However, another leader Natakishore Mishra said as Bankibhal-Taparia MDR road is used by MCL for coal transportation, there is no justification of the proposed spending of over `146 crore from the District Mineral Foundation.