Sarpanchs of 13 villages from Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh district have written to Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar against allowing private bidding for five coal blocks in Tamnar.
The sarpanchs have stated in their letter that the decision to operate the coal blocks goes against the gram sabha’s stand and an NGT order from February 2020.
Gare Palma IV/7, one of the coal blocks from the region, has received the highest bids in the country.
The central government earlier made changes to the list with 41 coal blocks up for auction. On September 1, following opposition by the Chhattisgarh government and environment organisations, five coal blocks from the Hasdeo Aranya area, which is rich in biodiversity, were replaced with three blocks — Dolesara, Jarekela, and Jharpalam-Tangarghat. These blocks along with two others lie in Tamnar block of Raigarh district, where, according to villagers, existing coal mines have led to pollution and loss of biodiversity.
“Not only will it lead to environmental loss and severe health complications, the decision to include the coal blocks is in direct contravention to the NGT order from February 27,” the letter from the sarpanchs reads.
According to the NGT order in a petition by Raigarh resident Shivpal Bhagat on viability and impacts of the existing coal plants and any plans of expansion, the “‘Precautionary’ and ‘Sustainable Development’ principles require that any further expansion or new projects in the area should be allowed after thorough evaluation only and mechanism for remedial measures should be in place, including oversight of measures for health mitigation.”
Villagers and environment activists say no such evaluation was done. “No one asked us and in fact, they went against so many of our gram sabha decisions,” one sarpanch said.
The letter also accused the Congress-led state government of going back on promises made in the manifesto. Quoting the manifesto on intergenerational equity, the letter stated, “The decision to expand these already polluted sites seems to be violating the principles of ‘inter-generational equity’ and is motivated towards mindlessly destroying natural resources, leaving destruction in its wake.”
On August 1, Union minister for Coal and Mines Prahlad Joshi met Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and later told reporters that five blocks will be excluded from the auction list and three will be added instead as per the government’s suggestion.
Under commercial coal mining, the state will fetch at least Rs 4,400 crore in revenue in a year and create around 60,000 jobs, government sources said.
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