The battle against mining in Chhattisgarh

The indigenous people are fighting to protect their forests and livelihood

The Adivasi community in Hasdeo Arand Coalfield (HACF), Chhattisgarh, is up in arms against the expansion of coal mining projects that pose a threat to their existence and the rich biodiversity of the region.

With conservationists, researchers and activists supporting them, the community has urged the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to overturn the 2019 recommendations for the opening up and expansion of coal mining projects. The HACF inhabitants have warned against an environmental disaster.

“If mining operations begin, we will lose our lifeline, the perennial streams that criss-cross many villages before merging with the Hasdeo river. Our wells and hand pumps will all go dry,” Umeshwar Singh Amo, of village Jampani (Patriya Girdmuri) in Korba district, told The Hindu.

The HACF spread over 1,880 sq.km, consists of 23 blocks, including Tara, Parsa, Parsa East & Kente Basan, and Kente Extension that fall under thick forests.

Members of nearly 20,000 tribal communities such as the Gonds, the Orans, the Lohars and the Kunwars depend on the forests for survival.

The villagers in Surguja, Surajpur and Korba districts fear the industrial activity will not only snatch away their source of income but also lead to mass migration. The wildlife will be endangered as the proposed sites for mining cut across the elephant corridor. “Our habitation and socio-cultural needs will be ruined,” said Jainandan Singh Porte of village Ghatbara in Sarguja district, who took part in the 330-km protest march this October.

The padyatra to Raipur was to demand the cancellation of all coal mining projects in their area. Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the extraction of coal in the region would rip the fragile land of its silence and serenity, lead to aridity and cause harmful smoke and noise pollution.

Environmentalists and activists including Aditya C. Panda, Honorary Wildlife Warden; Angul, Odisha and Mike Pandey of Earth Matter/ River Bank Studio; Asad Rehmani, former director Bombay Natural History Society; Prerna Singh Bindra, former member, standing committee, National Board for Wildlife Conservationist; Neel Gogate of Jamtara Wilderness camp, Pench National Park and members of Chhattisgarh Wildlife Board have conveyed their concerns to the CM.

Calling it a bad decision, the signatories have requested the government to review its expansion proposal before executing any haphazard action.

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