Mining in Tigerland

Given below are just two of my articles i wrote on the issue of mining in tiger habitats, an issue i have been consistently writing about at campaigning about:

This is especially relevant given that the coal ministry has circulated a Cabinet note espousing the possibility of mining in 90 per cent of the forest area ( 90 percent of no-go areas) of the country.

The conscience of the coal companies is taken care of with the coal minister generously adding that for every tree cut, “companies have to plant three such trees. Coal India is doing such things voluntarily.” Planting three such trees-if ever done-and with some 95 percent mortiality does not replace a ravaged eco-system, an old growth forest.
The Times of India quotes that the Union government has decided that 3,80,000 hectares of forest land will be open to mining in the future. But the coal lobby thinks this is peanuts—it wants, by some reports, five times that amount,
Mining , and other development projects as India races on the growth path is the biggest threat to the tiger today..

Mining in TigerLand

The tiger’s most unfortunate truth—besides the fact that Man wants to make a meal of its bones—is that the ground beneath his feet is rich with minerals, and greed has
cast its eye on it. Overtime, millions of hectares of ‘tigerland’ have been diverted for mining, and the demand to open up more forest for ‘black gold’ escalates. The latest horror story is from Rajasthan. The states’ apathy is evident in the fact that tigers went extinct in Sariska in 2004. A massive effort, and hundreds of crores later the tiger staged a grand return, only to have its guardian, the state imperil its refuge by granting leases to no less than 40 mines around the reserve. Tadoba in Maharashtra fares no better, with 16 proposed mines, coal washeries and thermal power plants coming up in its fringes—in addition to the 25 that are already operating, threatening to reduce the landscape into one big coal quarry and overburden dumping ground. Maharashtra has also thrown open the rich forests of Sindhudurg for iron ore and bauxite, granting 49 leases in what is one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, and a crucial wildlife corridor connecting Radhanagri, Koyna and Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve. Experts have minced no words in calling this “an ecological disaster.”
The forests of Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka, Goa and Chattisgarh have been ravaged by mines. Let’s focus on just one example: Saranda in Jharkhand, Asia’s largest and finest Sal forests, which has lost over 40 per cent of canopy cover to iron ore mines. Disaster awaits, with the big boys of steel ie Tata, Jindal, Arcelor-Mittal, Essar pushing their proposals. If these were to come through two-thirds of the forest will go under mines, and Saranda will be lost forever.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s vow to ‘save tigers’ as recorded on TV reeks of hypocrisy. MP has floated proposals for coal mines near Bandhavgarh, and the forest corridor between the Bori-Satpura and Pench Tiger Reserves. Six of these fall in Chindwara, a politically volatile minefield as it in the constituency of Roads and Highways minister Kamalnath, already at odds with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for refusing the expansion of NH-7. Incidentally, this highway cuts through the Kanha-Pench corridor slashing over 60 km of crucial tiger habitat.
Corridors are vital for the survival of long ranging species like the tiger. Mines in such close proximity will wreak havoc on the fragile ecosystem and isolate tiger populations eventually leading to a genetic dead end. Fragmented habitats also push tigers into human habitation escalating man-tiger conflict.
But efforts by the Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to rationalise, and restrict the opening up of forests for mining has met with severe criticism, not just from corporate and concerned ministries, but even from the Prime Minister’s office, even as the PM reiterates his commitment to protect India’s national animal. For those who accuse the environment ministry of being ‘activist’ here’s news: About 90 per cent proposals put before the ministry get the green clearances.
The battle will only intensify given that the demand for coal is set to touch about 2,300 mt per annum by 2030 from the current 600 mt. With India’s main energy thrust continuing to be thermal power plants—the worst offender in global warming—development pundits fail to comprehend the import of such projects. When we pillage the earth on which the tiger walks, when we mine its forests,—essentially water catchment areas—we poison our water sources, and the soil, leading to loss of livelihood, huge amounts of displacement and consequent unrest.

prerna singh bindra

In the Hindustan Times :

There is a detailed note on this in the October 2010 issue of TigerLink.

Powerless Tigers 

Largely speaking, since the interim order of the Supreme Court (re: tourism) tiger aficionados, and those in the media on the tiger trail have been largely occupied by the business of the ‘ban’ on tourism in core. Meanwhile, in the tiger’s world , other threats loom.

You could pin one of these to the world’ biggest grid failure when much of North India was plunged into darkness and chaos for over six hours. Electricity and tigers? if you read the media reports, you would know that like most things that go wrong these days-from power shortages to slow growth rate-the blame rests at the door of the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MoEF),  and the fact that power projects are languishing and not getting the ‘green’ go -ahead due to environment, forest and other such sundry hurdles. In fact, a popular news weekly which took up the power crisis two weeks in a row  blamed  “activist friendly MoEF policies” . Clearances for projects are a problem, citing two mega projects in Odisha and Chhattisgarh have not been given the green nod. In the next issue, the answers to the power breakdown was that “forest clearances be done away with.  If only the media-and not just this particular newsmagazine -dug deeper. to ferret out the real issues instead of repeating the rhetoric.

First, I will quote ad verbatim a clarification from the MoEF on some of the projects that are said to be blocked  :

NTPC Bijapur Karnataka is said to have been stalled due to lack of environmental clearance. The fact is EC was granted on 25 January 2012.  Essar Madhya Pradesh is said to have been stalled due to lack of EC, but EC was granted as early as 20 April 2007. The same applies to Reliance Power Chitrangi Madhya Pradesh where EC was granted on 28 May 2010. The Essar plant is already in operation, although-do note-final Forest Clearance (FC) for both these projects is pending.  One could go into why the plants have started operations without mandatory clearances breaking the law of the land but that will start one of on another track.

Let me quote instead a study done by centre for Science and Environment  The 11th and 12th  Five Year Plan target  1,50,000 MW of additional thermal power capacity to be created set up till 2017. In a period of five years,  till August 2011, the granted  clearances for 210,000 MW of thermal power capacity. do your math, its is 60,000 MW more than what has been proposed for five years hence. the study also says that the thermal power capacity built in the same period is 32,394 MW. So, why are new projects beating down the MoEF door, when cleared projects are not being built?

Let’s talk coal-it’s shortage apparently has brought the economy to its knees. Hence, let’s rape all the forests for King coal. I cite a recent article in a prominent English daily authored by a former bureaucrat,” We can’t let environmental precautionism be converted into environmental ‘talibanism’. India’s first priority must be taking care of the energy needs of its people, rather than taking care of sundry animals. Thus mining must be allowed and reforestation can be done, hand-in-hand, in other areas to make up for the lost cover  do away with forest clearances.” I will not even bother to trash this ill-informed , lest i digress again. but before i clear the coal scam picture,  The B K Chaturvedi committee had recommended that all coal mining projects should be given automatic clearance, with exceptions only for projects in “dense” areas.

I borrow here from Sunita Narian’s editorial in Down to Earth, “Coal India Limited (CIL) produces over 90 per cent of India’s coal; it controls over 200,000 ha of mine lease, including 55,000 ha of forest area. The estimated coal reserves with CIL are 64 billion tonnes, and the company produces 500 million tonnes per annum. Who is then responsible for the shortage of coal in the country?”   India loses no less than 40 per cent energy during transmission, and while there are enough investments or new projects-where you get control over natural resources-the shortfall of a staggering $75-billion or nearly four lakh crores

A recent report by Greenpeace says coal mining threatens over 1.1 million ha. of forest, tiger, elephant habitat. this study was restricted to just 13 coalfileds in Central India, so the larger picture  will throw up more deadly statistics. The tiger’s most unfortunate truth is that the ground beneath his feet is rich with minerals. The battle will only intensify given that the demand for coal is set to touch about 2,300 mt per annum by 2030 from the current 600 mt.  Next time, you leave the lights on, think of the impact on the tiger who you so want to save. the power in your home is powered by tiger’s forests, and in the case of hydel, with killing impacts on riverine life, including dolphins, gharials etc. Actioning and optimum use of  existing capacity, efficiency of distribution and transmission and conserving energy are the key to a more ‘powered’  future while ensuring ecological security.

The above article appeared in The Pioneer dated

One Response to “Mining in Tigerland

  • In the ongoing quest for development, tiger and its forest are placed in last priority.
    Present days 40% of total investment in India is coming in power sector and thermal power plants are leading from front.Soaring price & unavailibilty of natural gas has made Gas based plants least favourite. Considering all this it seems that mining will replace poaching as the prime cause of tiger’s extinction.

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