Over 1 lakh of trees are to be felled for proposed coal mining in Odisha

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The Union Department of Coal has sought to expedite the forest diversion process for proposed open pit coal mining, which would require the felling of more than a lakh of standing trees in a reserve forest and would significantly disrupt the elephant population in Odisha’s Angul district.

Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), a joint venture company between the Government of India and Telangana, has proposed coal mining at the Naini Coal Mine at Chhendipada Tahasli in Angul District.

The total area required for the project is 912,799 ha, of which 643,095 ha are reserved forest areas and 140,180 ha are village forest areas. The rest is not a forest.

SCCL is awaiting environmental and forest clearance before diverting 783.275 ha of forest land for the coal field, located in the southeast corner of the Lower Gondwana Basin in the Mahanadi Valley.

According to the site inspection report submitted by the Angul Divisional Forest Officer, 1.05.092 trees in Chhendipda Reserve Forest, 1,087 trees in Control Forest and 327 trees in non-forest areas would need to be felled.

Of the total number of trees to be felled, 31,248 trees are over 60 cm in girth, while 74,932 trees are under 60 cm in girth. Important wood species are Sal ( Shorea robusta), Teak wood ( Tectona Grandis), Sunari ( Cassia fistula) and Dharua ( anogeissus latifolia). chara ( Buchanania), mahula ( madhuca indica) and tentuli ( tamarind) form types of non-timber forest products.

However, the company has been permitted to establish compensatory afforestation on 1,083 ha of degraded forest (542 ha in Bankamundi reserve forest in Boudh district and 600 ha of degraded forest area in Tikhari reserve forest in Balangir district).

threat to wildlife

The important issue highlighted by the on-site inspection team was the threat to wildlife, particularly elephants. Although the area proposed for coal mining is not part of a national park, wildlife sanctuary or biosphere, wild elephant migrations are frequently observed in the northern and southern parts of the lease. The division wanted a detailed mitigation plan to allow safe passage for elephants.

The reason the Forest Service raised the issue was that the entire area on both sides of State Highway-63 up to the Deogarh Division had coal reserves and many companies were likely to join in the future. Failure to build an underpass could result in elephant deaths in road accidents.

The coal ministry forestalled the matter, saying if the Odisha government plans to conduct an extensive study, it could cause a further delay in the mine’s start-up.

“It is understood that Odisha is considering hiring the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun for forest research, which would take considerable time, which will affect environmental and forest clearance grants for coal mines in Angul district of Talcher Coalfields. This may adversely affect coal production from the coal blocks in the Talcher Coal Fields and Odisha Coal Fields,” M. Nagaraju, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Coal, said in a letter to Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra.

“Coal mining plays an important role in the growth of the industrial sector in Odisha. The state accounts for 24% of India’s coal reserves, which is a crucial part of the state’s economy,” said Mr. Nagaraju.

He urged the Secretary of State to instruct Forest Department officials to forward their comments to the Department of Environment and Forests and Climate Change at the earliest, rather than contracting forest research to ICFRE.

Sources said the state government was considering asking the Bombay Natural History Society for the study, which will likely speed up the process.

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