Felling of trees for Parsa coal mining project in Chhattisgarh starts; villagers


Felling of trees for Parsa coal mining project in Chhattisgarh starts; villagers protestAmbikapur: The Chhattisgarh forest department on Tuesday launched a tree cutting exercise to pave the way for start of the Parsa coal mining project in the Surguja division, triggering strong opposition from local villagers who forced the authorities to halt their action after 300 trees were axed. The move came days after the Chhattisgarh government granted the final approval for non-forestry use of forest land in the Parsa coal mining project area.

According to villagers, they learnt about the deforestation exercise early in the morning and rushed to the spot to register their objection. On April 6, the state government had given the final approval for non-forestry use of 841.538 hectares of forest land for the Parsa coal mine spread across Surguja and Surajpur districts in northern part of the state. The mine has been allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (RRVUNL).

“As many as 300 trees were felled in Janardanpur village (Surajpur district) under the Ramanujnagar forest range for the Parsa coal mine project. After the objection by local villagers, the work was stopped,” a local forest official said. “Around 1,590 trees are to be cut in this area for the project. Further action in this direction will be taken after getting directives from senior officials,” he added.

On getting information about the deforestation work in Janardanpur which is close to Salhi village (Surguja district), residents of project-affected villages reached there, said Ramlal Kariyam, a resident of Salhi. Over 50 police personnel were deployed to facilitate the deforestation work, he added. “The residents of Salhi, Fatehpur and Hariharpur villages have been protesting against the project for a long time. We have even demanded a probe into forged gram sabha documents based on which clearances have been given for the project,” he said. “This forest is part of the biodiversity-rich and ecologically sensitive Hasdeo Arand region. Mining in this area will not only result in displacement of local tribals but also cause destruction to the environment. We will not allow this area to get destroyed,” said Kariyam, who is associated with the Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, an outfit spearheading agitation against tree cutting and raising other environmental issues.

Convener of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA), Alok Shukla, termed the forest department’s move as “very sad” and claimed that to extend benefit to corporates, constitutional rights of tribals are being crushed.

The CBA has been fighting for rights of tribals and environment conservation. “It is very sad that the process for the project is being carried forward by crushing the constitutional rights of tribals and ignoring their welfare. The state government did not even consider it appropriate to investigate the fake Gram Sabha proposals and under corporate pressure, the felling of trees started at midnight,” Shukla claimed.


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