The Chhattisgarh Cabinet has approved auctioning of 17 out of 18 coal blocks identified by the Centre in the state for the purpose, raising concerns about the impact of the mining in wildlife-rich areas that are home to elephants, sloth bears and leopards. Activists have also questioned the approval saying it has been granted even as there has been no increase in the coal demand.
An official aware of the matter said the go-ahead was given at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “…Barra coal block, which is in Raigarh district, has been exempted from the auction,” said the official, who did not want to be named.
Chhattisgarh produces around 150 million tonnes of coal annually, according to official data. It has around 58,589 million tonne coal reserves. The 17 blocks, which are expected to generate around 8,000 million tonnes of coal, are located in Dharamjaigarh, Sarguja, Surajpur and Koriya forest divisions.
According to MSTC Limited, which is carrying out the auctions for the Centre, a large forest area will be impacted in Chhattisgarh. In a description of mines being auctioned on MSTC Limited’s website, the coal blocks involve between 15% to 40% of forest land. A tributary to the Atem, the Mahan, Pajhar Nadi and Kelo rivers also flow through the area.