‘India’s forests and coal mining’

  • Category
    Biodiversity
  • Published
    26th Aug, 2020

Giving a boost to the mining sector, the government in its announcements intended to revive the economy following the pandemic. But a boost to mining brings with it associated troubles such as land conflicts, run-ins with communities and an impact on the environment.

Context

Giving a boost to the mining sector, the government in its announcements intended to revive the economy following the pandemic. But a boost to mining brings with it associated troubles such as land conflicts, run-ins with communities and an impact on the environment.

About

  • What is ‘GO and No-Go’ zones?
  • The concept of declaring certain forest areas within coal blocks as “inviolate” began in 2004.
  • The environment ministry classified certain forests as either ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ areas and banned mining from taking place in the latter.
  • In 2009, the environment ministry had placed the country's forested areas under two categories - Go and No-Go - and imposed a ban on mining in the 'No-Go' zones on environmental grounds.

Initial classification and current status of ‘no-go’ and ‘go’ zones

 

Total

No-Go Zones

Go-Zones

Initial classification in 2010

Total land

Total Blocks

Total land

No. of Blocks

% of Land

Total land

No. of Blocks

% of Land

6,52,572 hectare

605

3,20,684 hectare

222

 49%

3,31,888 hectare

383

51%

Revised classification

6,02,850 hectare

582

1,40,311 hectare

105

23.27
   %

4,62,539 hectare

477

76.72%

Background:

  • On June 18, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that 41 new coal blocks would be opened for auction to the private sector to power its energy and industrial sectors.
  • The decision was part of the announcements made by the Centre under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Status of coal mining:

  • Since 1980, when the Forest Conservation Act was enacted, India has diverted 0.53 million hectares of forestland for mining, the bulk of it for coal.
  • So far coal was mined keeping in mind the requirement of end use, like electricity and steel.
  • In 2015, the Supreme Court said that coal is a precious national asset and it should be used for specific purposes. Since 2015, 49 coal mining projects have been cleared.
  • The coal industry in India is state-owned, but this auction of 40 new coal blocks will see the creation of a privatised, commercial coal sector in India
  • In 2020, 21 of the 41 blocks put up for auction, 21 feature in the original No-Go list.
  • Currently India was not utilising its existing capacity fully and only 67% of the mines auctioned since 2015 are were not operational yet.

 

Items for box

  • India produces over 85 minerals including coal, lignite, bauxite, chromite, copper ore and concentrates, iron ore, lead and zinc concentrates, manganese ore, silver, diamond, limestone, phosphorite etc.
  • India is the second-largest producer and importer of coal in the world.
  • There are over 3,500 mining leases that are in force in the country across 23 states covering an area of 316,290.55 hectares.
  • Of those, nearly 70% are in five states alone –
    • Madhya Pradesh has 702 mining leases
    • Tamil Nadu has 464
    • Andhra Pradesh has 453
    • Gujarat has 432
    • Karnataka has 376

Ease of coal mining

  • The federal government has been easing rules for coal mining, which was made a state monopoly in 1973.
  • In 1993, the government allowedprivate companies to mine coal for their own use.
  • It has further eased government controlover the industry since 2014.
  • State-owned Coal India Limited, established in 1975, still accounts for 80% of domestic production, of which 80% is sold to thermal power plants.

Why is it a bad idea?

  • The country’s major mineral area is under its richest forests and in the watersheds of its key rivers which are also the homes of India’s poorest people, mainly tribal communities and forest dwellers.
  • Coal is the single largest source of air pollution and carbon dioxide (CO2) in India. Of the total CO2 emissions, 50% comes from coal burning.
  • Coal is amongthe biggest contributors to climate change and the recently released government report on climate change noted that India has already witnessed 0.7º C of warming and surface air temperature is likely to rise by 4.4º C till the end of the century.
  • This is expected to have led to-
    • the decimation of over 19,000 hectares of forestland
    • cutting down of over 1 million trees
    • displacement of over 10,000 families

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