Cong, NCP split over Adani mines
Ramu Bhagwat 3 August 2009, 12:55am IST
NAGPUR: The Adani Power Ltd.'s plans for mining of coal close to Tadoba tiger reserve, one of the last remaining havens of tiger in the country has run into a political storm. It seems to have split Nationalist Congress Party, a constituent of the UPA government and partner of DF government in Maharashtra, and Congress. NCP is quietly backing it while Congress is bent upon scuttling it citing potential damage to tiger habitat.
This became evident with Congress president Sonia Gandhi taking a grim view of the project. Replying to the letter written to her by city MP Vilas Muttemwar, Gandhi last week wrote: "Regarding the concerns expressed over the proposed diversion of forest land in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district for opencast coal mining. I am having the matter looked into."
According to party sources, Sonia Gandhi immediately referred the matter raised by Muttemwar to environment minister Jairam Ramesh and coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal to resolve.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh is also seized of the issue after seven members of parliament from Vidarbha, cutting across party lines wrote to him seeking withdrawal allocation of the mine blocks at the doorsteps of TATR. With all parties opposing it and the NCP maintaining a studied silence, the Sharad Pawar-led party is isolated on Adani mines issue.
The NCP has huge stakes in the project as Adani is setting up a thermal power plant at Tiroda in Gondia district, the home turf of NCP strongman Praful Patel.
With pressure from the top party bosses, state forest minister Babanrao Pachpute has till date succeeded in reining in his officials, who privately agree that allowing mining would be disastrous for tiger habitat and forest.
The mine falls in the buffer zone of the reserve and will affect the highly endangered tigers' movement by cutting the corridor connecting central India with tiger habitats in south.
The mines will directly occupy about 1600 hectares of prime forest land. The area not only has rich vegetation but also has presence of wildlife including big cats like tigers and leopards. For this reason, the project has evoked strong protests from local villagers as well as environmental activists.
With the PM and the Congress president now lending support to opponents of Adani mines, the issue may turn into a political battle between Congress and NCP.
With the state assembly elections barely two months away, the tussle between the two parties assumes greater significance.
It is also being seen as another move by Congress to corner Pawar to wrest more concessions from its alliance partner during seat-sharing negotiations.