Environment Hurdles may Hit Mahan’s Mining Plans
The Madhya Pradesh government assured the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday that it will not cut a single tree for the Mahan Coal project till October this year, citing monsoons, signalling a further delay in mining coal for the .` 6,400-crore joint venture. Mahan Coal is an equal joint venture between Essar Power and Aditya Birla Group flagship Hindalco Industries. The coal mined will fuel power plants set up by Essar and Hindalco separately for 14 years. About five lakh trees on 967 hectares of forest land will be cut over a decade. The District Forest Officer from the state told NGT on Monday that the process of demarcation and enumeration of the trees was going on currently and the first phase of deforestation on about 297 hectares of land will begin only in October once the monsoons were over. “As a law abiding corporate citizen, we are optimistic that we will create a benchmark in sustainable and inclusive development by tak- ing care of environment while starting the mine at the earliest,” said Ramakant Tiwari, CEO, Mahan Coal. Tiwari was earlier optimistic to start mining coal in the next three months. The environment ministry granted the ‘Stage II’ clearance to the project in February after Veerappa Moily took over the ministry. Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, the local body formed with the help of environmental campaign group Greenpeace, has protested against deforestation, claiming destruction of livelihoods of 50,000 tribals, dependent on the forest. Mahan Sangharsh Samiti have challenged the clearance in NGT, saying the green nod to the project is hasty and full of irregularities. Greenpeace India viewed today's assurance as a temporary relief. “This is a temporary respite for us. We are determined to save our forests and will continue to oppose any mining related activities in our forest,” says Hardayal Singh of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti and a petitioner in the case. The next hearing in the case will take place on July 23. Greenpeace has also alleged forgery of signatures during that the mandatory Gram Sabha resolution, where approval of villagers was taken. The government may seek approval from villagers again next month, Bloomberg reported last week, quoting region’s chief administrator M Selvendran.