A special committee of senior Maharashtra forest officials has rejected clearance to Adani Power Ltd’s proposal for setting up an open cast coal mine in Chandrapur’s Lohara block citing a threat to the survival of tiger and other wildlife in and around the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).
The block falls under the proposed eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the tiger reserve.
The minutes of this committee’s September 4 meeting perused by DNA show that there is sufficient evidence of tigers and other wildlife frequently using the area proposed to be mined for coal. The area is part of the “continuous wildlife corridor”.
The special committee was set up to study the project proposal submitted by Adani Power Project for diversion of forest land for the coal block.
“Any mining lease allowed around TATR would result in isolation of TATR from the rest of the central Indian landscape, which would jeopardize the very survival of tiger in TATR. The isolation of healthy population would lead to gradual deterioration of tiger reserve,” the committee observed and said,”Mining and other related activities will adversely affect wildlife movements outside protected area also.”
The committee made these remarks after noting that TATR has connectivity to other protected areas (PAs) mainly through eastern and southern side which extends to Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It also pointed out that “the corridor on southern side is least fragmented and almost continuous.” The mining lease alloted to Adani Power Ltd falls in this corridor and would result in its fragmentation. The adverse impact is not limited to wild animals as “the project involves felling of a large number of trees and an untold number of shrubs, herbs and grasses causing incomprehensible destruction of floristic diversity of the the tract.”
The four-member committee comprised chief conservator of forests, Chandrapur, BSK Reddy; TATR field director Virendra Tiwari; SP Thakre, general manager, Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra, North Chandrapur region, and P Kalyankumar, deputy conservator of forests, Chandrapur.
Speaking to DNA, Virendra Tiwari said, “The adverse impact on wildlife continues after a mere removal of two compartments from the buffer zone of TATR. So, the proposal was rejected.”
Chandrapur-based Wildlife activist Bandu Dhotre, who has been leading an agitation against mining in TATR, accessed the minutes of the meeting through a Right to Information (RTI) application. He said, “Now, the nodal officer of the forest department where the company submitted its proposal should be receptive to the observations and concerns raised by officials in the committee and accept the rejection. If forest officials consistently take such decisions which are in favour of wildlife and environment, there will be no need for people to come on the streets to agitate.”
Adani Power Ltd did not reply to an email questionnaire sent by the correspondent on the issue. However, sources in the company said it is looking for an alternative block and wants to surrender the Lohara (west) extension block. “Since it is obvious that chances of getting forest clearance are slim, we don’t plan to pursue it further. We will seek its deallocation and also request the coal ministry for an alternative block as it is necessary to ensure fuel supply to our 3, 300 MW Tirodia power plant, “ said a company source.