New mining threat near Tadoba
Mazhar Ali, TNN, Jul 26, 2010, 04.15am IST
CHANDRAPUR: Even as the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has de-allocated the Lohara and Agarzari coal blocks which pose threat to the tiger corridors of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), the abode of around 45 tigers now faces a fresh threat from a couple of other mines proposed very close to the buffer zone boundary. The coal block allocated to Bander Coal Company Private Limited (BCCPL) in Chimur tehsil to the north of the tiger reserve threatens to cut off the only corridor connecting TATR to Melghat tiger landscape.
Conservationist Bandu Dhotre said that the union coal ministry has allocated coal block to the BCCPL, owned by Abhijeet group, wide a letter (13017/78/2008-CA-1) dated May 29, 2009, near Bander village, close to buffer zone boundary of TATR in Chimur tehsil.
The company has initiated the process of seeking mining lease for two of its mines - Bander opencast coal mine and Bander underground coal mine - located adjacent to each other. The company would require 1604.67 hectares (ha) of land for two mines.
This includes 395.67 ha of private land, 38.84 ha of revenue land and 1170.60 ha of forest land. The jungle area required by the company includes 501.19 ha of reserve forest area, 31 ha of FDCM forest and 637.97 ha of other forest land.
"The forest stretch required by the company forms the only corridor that connects Melghat tiger landscape with TATR through forests of Nagpur, Wardha and Bor sanctuary. This corridor has turned into a bottleneck forest patch due to human habitation, agricultural activities and bisecting roads on east, west and southern sides and hence has become extremely sensitive," Dhotre claimed.
He said that the coal block falls within 10 km range from the TATR boundary. The buffer area of TATR is demarcated only up to 7.5 km from the boundary of core area of tiger reserve on this side. Hence, the mining area seems to be outside of the buffer zone, but the mine boundary touches the periphery of the buffer area.
"The aerial distance of the proposed underground mine is 7.5 km from the boundary of core area of the TATR, while that of the open cast mine is 9 km. Almost the entire area falls within 10 km from TATR boundary, which ideally should be an eco-sensitive zone as per the guidelines of Supreme Court," Dhotre said.
"Even though the state government has not yet notified the eco-sensitive zone, the fact remains that any type of mining should not be allowed within such sensitive area," Dhotre claimed.
He said that in 1999, MoEF has rejected the proposal for the same block, citing its adverse impact on the wildlife around Tadoba.
"Now, after 10 years, when the corridor has become degraded and has shrunk, it will be highly irrational to reallocate this once-rejected block for coal mining," he said.
Dhore further said that the proposed mine falls under Bramhapuri forest division. "Man-animal conflict in the area in question is at its peak. Habitat degradation after mining will worsen the problem. Moreover, TATR management has identified this area as a threatened and degraded corridor, and has proposed its restoration under corridor conservation plan. Hence, it would be unwise to further degrade the area," he said.
Dhotre said that he has brought the issue into the notice of MoEF minister Jairam Ramesh in his recent meeting at Delhi.
"Ramesh claimed that his ministry has so far not received any proposal for environment clearance from the company. However, he assured that any project that would be hazardous for the forest, wildlife and tigers will not be sanctioned by his ministry," said Dhotre.
As far as present status of proposed mines is concerned, the company has moved the proposal to Bramhapuri forest division for forest clearance.
Meanwhile, conservator of forests and field director, TATR, Sanjay Thakre in his communication forwarded to chief conservator of forest (wildlife), field director has acknowledged that approving mines in the area will be highly detrimental for wildlife management.