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Friday, September 2, 2011

Brahmapuri, TATR officials' 'no' to mining in Bander Vijay Pinjarkar -TNN

NAGPUR: The Brahmapuri forest division and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) officials have said 'no' to proposed mining in Bander coal blocks near TATR in Chimur tehsil in Chandrapur district.

A proposal for open cast and underground mining by Bander Coal Company Private Limited (BCCPL), Mumbai, a joint venture of Amar Iron & Steel, Yavatmal; Century Textiles Industries, Mumbai; and JK Cements Limited, Kanpur, was pending since May 2010 to seek comments of deputy conservator of forests (DyCF), Brahmapuri, and TATR field director prior to getting environment clearance. The company had issued several reminders to seek comments of forest officials.

In their comments forwarded to the senior officials, DyCF Brahmapuri and TATR field director have opined that coal mining should not be allowed in Bander, whether it underground or opencast.

It is reliably learnt that both the officials concerned have clearly said 'no' to mines in Bander. "It is the only corridor left on the northern side connecting TATR and Melghat landscape through Nagpur, Wardha and Bor wildlife sanctuary. The existing coal mines in Murpaar have already damaged the tiger corridor. More mining would completely destroy the entire corridor," the officials said.

They have further said that proposed mining area is a good tiger habitat and in the past 3-4 human deaths have been reported due to man-animal conflict. The forest is such a rich habitat that it cannot be restored once damaged. Now the senior wildlife wing officials in city have to take a call. A three-member National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) committee comprising Kishor Rithe, Urmila Pingle and GN Vankhede in its report last year had also opposed to the proposed mining.

BCCPL was allotted coal blocks in Bander on May 29, 2009 to extract 175.110 million tonnes of coal. Although the proposed mining area falls in Brahmapuri division, the coal blocks are between 7.5km and 9km from the TATR boundary. Over 1,170 hectare of forest land will have to be diverted if mining is allowed.

Bandu Dhotre, president of Chandrapur-based NGO Eco-Pro, had also raised the issue with union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on July 19, 2010 requesting him to save the only corridor connecting TATR-Melghat.

"Khadsangi reserve forest and adjoining forest area, located towards the northern side is the narrowest bottleneck among all. Already degraded due to human habitation and agricultural activity, it will be disastrous to allow mining in Bander," Dhotre said.

He said that the buffer area of TATR is demarcated only up to 7.5km from the TATR core boundary. Therefore, apparently mining area seems to fall outside buffer area (touching the buffer boundary).

In 1999, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had rejected proposal for the same blocks citing its adverse impact on wildlife around Tadoba. Now, after 10 years, the corridor is already degraded and shrunk. It will be highly irrational to re-llot, the once rejected block for coal mining when wildlife problem remains the same, experts felt.

Sources said that TATR management plan had identified this area as a threatened degraded corridor and proposed its restoration. Under such circumstances it will be unwise and disastrous to degrade it further by allocating it for coal mining.