The NAGPUR bench of Bombay High Court on Friday issued notices to the Union Environment Ministry, Coal Ministry, Coal India Limited, Maharashtra government and Chandrapur collector over the Centre’s listing Bander coal block near Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district among several other coal blocks to be auctioned.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Nagpur-based social worker, Pramod Junghare.
The petitioner said the Environment ministry has granted permission to auction the Bander coal block near TATR without requisite clearances under the Environment Protection Act (EPA), Forest Conservation Act (FCA) and National Board for Wild Life (NBWL).
“The coal block lies in eco-sensitive zone of TATR and is spread over 153.86 sq km, of which dense forest is 43.66 sq km, open forest is 50.86 and scrub forest is 59.12 sq km. Coal mining there would ruin both environment and people’s health,” the petitioner said.
The petition further stated that the coal block falls in the tiger corridor connecting TATR to Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary and further to other wildlife areas in Bhandara and Gondia districts, it will further aggravate the raging man-animal conflict in the region.
For the same reasons, the permission to the block was cancelled twice in 1999 and 2009, according to the petitioner. “In 2011, then TATR field director had observed that the project would be detrimental to wildlife,” the petitioner said.
It was further claimed that the block is located in “no-go” area listed by the Coal Ministry in 2009-10. “So, it can’t be considered for mining and the move smacks of mala fide,” the petitioner said, seeking the court’s intervention.
The bench, comprising Justice Ravi Deshpande and Justice Amit Borkar, issued notices to the respondents, seeking replies within eight weeks.
Former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who had red-flagged the project in 2011, had written to current Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, seeking immediate removal of the block from the auction list. Maharashtra Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray had also appealed to the central government to cancel the coal block auctions.