Greenpeace suggests that the government is willing to overlook policy meant to protect the country’s pristine forests, wildlife and fresh-water for increasing coal production. Its inference is based on information secured through right to Information from the ministry of environment and forest.
“Information accessed by Greenpeace India under RTI reveals that as many as 417 out of 825 current and future coal blocks should be categorised as inviolate areas as per hydrological parameters,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
Mining in the forests even beyond the 250m of the river banks often has a dramatic detrimental impact on the catchment, including water pollution, erosion and worsening water scarcity during dry season,” says Sivalingam. He adds that if all the streams (second and third order) in the river basins are to be taken into consideration, the impact on central India’s water sources could be much higher.
Besides the hydrological parameters, the RTI data accessed by Greenpeace India shows that currently the list of inviolate coal blocks stand at a mere 49, covering an area of 1271.43 Sq Km as per four parameters: forest cover, forest type, biological richness and landscape integrity.
Reports show that the government has started applying the inviolate policy partially. However it is not clear how they include or exclude coal blocks from this list. At the same time, coal blocks listed as inviolate are being auctioned/allotted to mining companies. “What is worrying is the callousness that the MoEFCC has towards protecting the country’s pristine natural resources. It’s no longer only about forests, it’s clear that mining in the central Indian forest could also have serious impacts on water sources,” says Sivalingam.