Conservationists warn that indiscriminate coal block allocation will destroy tiger habitats of central India.
Geological Information System analysis whereby Coal India Ltd maps were juxtaposed against satellite images of forest cover undertaken by the Ecoinformatics Lab at the Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) has shown that the allocation of just 13 out of the 195 coal blocks allocated by the ministry of mines will adversely impact the Bandhavgarh, Pench, Tadoba, Palamu, Hazaribagh, Simlipal, Chaprala and Indravati tiger reserves.
These reserves harbour almost 250 tigers as well as large numbers of elephants, leopards and other species. Crucial connecting corridors necessary for animal survival will also lost to coal mining.
Worse, they will destroy over one million ha of standing forests of which 739,000 ha comprises dense forest Already 26,000 ha of forest been sacrificed to coal mining. These allocations, Greenpeace activists warn, have major ecological and legal implications especially since this 3,54,000 ha lies within the 10 km buffer of protected area as mandated by the Supreme Court.
Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust said, “The Prime Minister goes out of his way to emphasise that the survival of the tiger is a matter of national priority and yet the steps taken by him and his ministers completely belie this claim.”
The Planning Commission has projected coal requirements for electricity generation in 2031 to be around 1,659 million-tones which is more than double the current coal consumption figures of around 650 mtpa.
To fulfill this mandate, Coal India has recently announced plants to ramp up domestic production from 435 mtpa in 2011 to 615 mtpa in 2017 and most of which will be shallow surface coal extracted through open cast mining. But Coal India already has over 200,00 ha of coal leases including 55,000 ha of forest with the environment Ministry admitting to have granted clearances for 830 mtpa of coal and 200 GW of power which is in excess of official targets.
Greenpeace report “How Coal Mining is Trashing Tigerland” emphasized that almost all coalfields overlap the habitat of endangered species.