People’s resentment over deforestation of around 1 lakh trees for Naini Coal Block at Chhendipada , Angul
By Bijay Mishra
There is widespread resentment among the people as proposed felling of more than one lakh standing trees in the reserve forest of Chhendipada for Naini Opencast Coal Mine will cause and enhance significant disturbance to elephant population in Angul district .
The “KHANI PRAVABITA PRAJA SANGHA “ Chhendipada and “Citizen Action Forum” in a Press Meet Angul strongly oppose the efforts of the coal ministry to facilitate coal mining at Chhendipada , overlooking wildlife concern , Man - Elephants conflict , deforestation and subsequent ecological disaster
The Naina opencast coal mines, spread over an area of 912.799 hectares at Chhendipada was allocated to Singareni Collieries Company Limited. SCCL ,a joint venture company between the Government of India and Telangana. SCCL is waiting for environment and forest clearance before diverting 783.275 ha of forestland for the coalfield.
After a site inspection report, the State Forest Department ascertained that 1,05,092 trees would have to be felled in Chhendipda reserve forest, 1,087 trees in revenue forest and 327 trees in non-forestland. Out of this 31,248 trees have girth above 60 cm, while 74,932 have below 60 cm. Important timber species include Sal , teak ,Sunari , Dharua and non-timber forest produce species Chara,Mahula and Tentuli will be cut for this purpose.
The site inspection team marked the threat to wild animals, especially elephants. Movement of wild elephants is often witnessed in the northern and southern parts of the lease area. The Forest Department wanted a detailed mitigation plan for providing a safe passage to elephants.The whole area on both sides of State Highway-63 up to Deogarh division has coal reserves and many companies are coming for mining purpose. The Forest Department stressed for construction of an underpass to prevent death of elephants in road accidents.
However the Coal Ministry preempted in the matter, saying if the Odisha government is planning an an elaborate study , it could lead to further delay in operationalisation of the mine.M. Nagaraju, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Coal, recently , in a letter to Odisha Govt told that “It is understood that Odisha is considering engaging the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun for forestry research, which would take considerable time that may impact on granting environment and forest clearance to coal mines located in Angul district of Talcher Coalfields. This may adversely affect the coal production from the coal blocks in the Talcher coalfields and coalfields of Odisha.”
He requested the State Chief Secretary to direct the Forest Department officers to furnish their comments to the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change at the earliest, instead of engaging the ICFRE for any forestry research.
In the Press Meet , Mrs Sasmita Behera
Convener of KHANI PRAVABITA PRAJA SANGHA told that , “the Naina opencast coal mines will greatly impact on rising human-elephant conflict in the Angul-Dhenkanal industrial belt. Around 200 elephants and many more people have died in human-elephant conflict in this region within last 8 years . The human-elephant conflict is on high rise in this area due to diversion of vast forest lands for coal mining and industrial activity. Elephant corridors have been disconnected triggering huge human-elephant conflict.”
Advocate Mr Rabindra Prasad Pattanaik , President , Citizen Action Forum urged the Govt for more studies on wildlife management plans considering its proximity of the project to the Mahanadi Elephant Reserve , Kahneijena-Anatapur elephant corridor , Satkosia Tiger reserve and the proposed Similipal-Satkosia tiger Corridor which is only about 8 km on the north side of the proposed project.
The state government was planning to ask the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education for a detailed study when the coal ministry suggested that its forest official send their comments to the environment ministry instead of engaging ICFRE which would be time consuming.
“ KHANI PRAVABITA PRAJA SANGHA “ Chhendipada and “CITIZEN ACTION FORUM” strongly oppose the efforts of the coal ministry to facilitate coal mining at Chhendipada , overlooking wildlife concern , Man - Elephants conflict and demand for a detail impact study by ICFRE . As all the localities, villages , hamlets , forest and environment will be greatly affected by around 20 coal mines in and around Chhendipada block , they demand detailed impact study of the whole area and prepare habitat planning .
Among others the Press Meet was addressed by Environmentalist Bijay Mishra , Jitendra Sahu , Sushanta Pradhan and Ashok Pradhan .