New Delhi, 22 November, 2011: Coal mining poses a serious threat to tigers in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur region, near the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and must be reined in. This is the verdict of a Fact Finding Mission to the area organized by Greenpeace India, consisting of wildlife experts Praveen Bhargav and Biswajit Mohanty and environmental lawyer Rahul Choudhary.
The team released its findings and recommendations in a report titled “Undermining Tadoba’s Tigers” at a press conference in New Delhi. The mission’s key recommendations are that no new mines should be given forest clearance in the region and further expansion of operational mines in tiger habitat should be stopped. They have also warned that TATR risks being completely cut off from surrounding forests by mines and dams, and that the ecological impact will be irreversible and cannot be compensated by afforestation. A fundamental shift in policy towards a scientific landscape approach that is focused on minimizing fragmentation of large blocks of contiguous forests instead of the present emphasis on forest density and measuring area lost is therefore the way forward.
“Our rapid assessment of coal mining around the TATR confirmed just how dangerous mining is for landscape/forest connectivity and particularly for far ranging species like tiger. Despite scientific evidence of a valuable source population of tigers in the Tadoba landscape, it is shocking to find that this data has been glossed over and willfully suppressed in the environment impact assessment report for the proposed Durgapur Deep Extension coal mine. These are clear grounds for rejection of the project,” said Praveen Bhargav.
The TATR and its buffer cover 1700 sq. km. In its 2010 report, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had estimated that the larger Chandrapur region holds 66 to 74 tigers spread over 3,241 sq. km. Coal mining is threatening connectivity between forest patches that are important for the long term survival of this tiger population.
In 2010, the MoEF denied clearance to Adani’s coal mining plans in the Lohara block on these grounds. However, the report says, there are several other mines also proposed in critical areas that serve as connecting corridors between Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and other forests. For example the Chinchpalli mining block to the south and the Bander mining block to the north of TATR. With over 2,558 hectares of forest land already diverted for coal mining in Chandrapur district since 2000, if any further mining proposals are permitted, corridors to the north, south and southeast of the reserve will be damaged. These corridors are used by tigers to move from TATR to other forests in the landscape, including Chaprala Sanctuary, Indravati Tiger Reserve, Bor Sanctuary and the Navegaon-Nagzira belt. TATR stands the very real risk of becoming an island, with no connectivity to the rest of the landscape.
The fact finding team’s report flatly contradicts the recent report of the Chaturvedi committee set up by the Group of Ministers on coal. The Chaturvedi report had recommended relaxing environmental safeguards to facilitate an expansion in coal mining, and abandoning the MoEF’s “go” and “no go” forest classification.
“The Chandrapur experience clearly shows that the clearance process is severely flawed, with mines coming up in critical tiger habitat. For the Chaturvedi report to recommend further relaxing clearance procedures is highly irresponsible,” said Rahul Choudhary of LIFE. “If accepted, the Chaturvedi report’s recommendations will be a death warrant for large forest areas across India, and for the wildlife and communities that depend on them.”
To enlist public support to protect the forests of central India from coal mining, Greenpeace has launched a public campaign titled the “Republic of Junglistan”. This nationwide mobilisation drive will register people’s support for forest protection by inviting them to become citizens of “Junglistan” and take action to support the forests.
Preethi Herman, climate campaigner with Greenpeace said, “Our ministers, elected representatives of the people, must not sacrifice our forests in favour of corporate interests. On behalf of all those who want to develop in a sustainable way, we are calling on them to agree to a set of criteria that forever protects forests like those in Chandrapur and Mahan from mining. In the meantime, we ask the GoM to put on hold all clearances for coal mining until such areas are identified and demarcated, through a transparent and consultative process.”
1. The fact-finding team visited Chandrapur in September 2011 and interacted with local NGOs, forest department officials and Western Coalfields Limited, which operates most mines in the area. The Fact Finding Team comprised of:
- Praveen Bhargav, Founding Member of Wildlife First and former Member, National Board for Wildlife.
- Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa and Member, National Board for Wildlife.
- Rahul Choudhary, Lawyer and member of Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment.
2. The complete report is available on the Greenpeace website.