Raipur, Oct 14
With the demand to cancellation of coal mining projects in Hasdeo Aranya in Chhattisgarh and voicing to protect the rich forest, large numbers of tribals on October 14 reached Raipur by covering 300 km on foot.
According to protestors and environmentalists, the objective of this march was to protect Hasdeo Aranya area and register protest against the alleged violation of their rights of ‘Gram Sabha’.
Notably, known as the ‘Lungs of Chhattisgarh’, the Hasdeo Aranya forests are one of the largest intact dense forest areas in Central India covering an area of 170,000 hectare. These forests are home to rich biodiversity (over 450 species of flora & fauna) including critically endangered species like elephant, leopard, sloth bear, etc. They have a significant elephant presence throughout the year, and are an important part of a large migratory corridor. This region was declared an entirely No-Go area in 2010 based on joint study of MoC and MoEF (less than 10% of India’s coal-bearing areas deemed as “out of bounds” for mining). Even after multiple policy revisions to the No-Go criteria, the maximum portion of Hasdeo Aranya is still deemed “inviolate” where no mining is permissible. Multiple Government and independent scientific reports have documented the ecological importance of the region and the urgent need to conserve it. The region was also proposed to be declared as an elephant reserve (Lemru). Yet, new coal mines are being opened which is likely to have a disastrous impact.
The state’s health minister and Ambikapur area MLA T S Singhdeo met the tribal people and expressed support to their demands.