Last Updated on
May 19th, 2022 08:28 pm
Stop this greed at the cost of the environment #SaveHasdeo
It wasn’t always this barren, like the above picture. Before a patch of Hasdeo forest was cleared up for the coal mines in the Parsa Basin in 2013, cattle used to graze here, and bears, snakes, and elephants could also be easily spotted.
Since time immemorial the precious biological resources of the planet have been safeguarded by none other than the indigenous people or the tribals, across the continents, who know how to live in perfect harmony with the environment.
These people despite being illiterate for a long time (education dawned on them only 4-5 decades ago) have a vast knowledge of their surroundings, giving birth to unique traditions and identity to them.
In this write-up, I’ll be focusing on the current agitation going on at village Madanpur, 180 km from Bilaspur, in the district of Korba. It’s against the proposed cutting of over 2 lakhs trees, in the pristine forest of the Hasdeo area for coal mining.
The entire tribal population of the area is opposing the proposal, saying that they (the perpetrators) have to cut their bodies, before cutting the much-worshiped trees in the area, and they’ll do anything to stand up for their rights of water, forest, and land – JAL, JUNGLE aur JAMEEN.
The local people from Hasdeo have the following grievances, put in the form of an ode:
A Brief History of the Save Hasdeo issue:
- Due to the ecological sensitivity, the National Green Tribunal in 2010 declared Hasdeo a NO GO ZONE (No entry anytime).
- But due to some political pressure, that declaration was dismissed in 2011, and 30 coal blocks were sanctioned.
- In 2013, the mining of the first coal block was started, which could not be opposed. But later, facing the aftermath in the form of air and water pollution, the village residents had been complaining to the collectors during the public meetings. But their voices were never heard seriously.
- Forest Right Acts 2006 Guidelines clearly say that apart from the government, the permission of the locals is essential. But big business houses take permission only from the government, ignoring the villagers who are to be displaced.
- In the year 2015, the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) banned 14 out of the 30 coal blocks. The naturalists had warned of the impact on the dense forests and their biodiversity.
- In December 2018, the Congress Party won the state elections by winning the trust of the entire tribal population of Hasdeo and other regions. The Party again assured them to save the forests and support their causes.
- There was a break for more than a year due to the Corona pandemic, but last year again there was a report of chopping of the trees in a particular block. Then in Oct 2021, Adivasis (tribal villagers) from Sarguja and Korba took out a 300 km march towards Raipur, to talk to the Chief Minister and the Governor in the capital.
The Ground Report:
The Parsa East and Kanta Basin (PEKB) was established in 2013, with Adani Mining Enterprises as the Main Developer and Operator (MDO). Two villages were then displaced for mining.
It was later found out that the Adani Company had been relentlessly buying land on a large scale for the PKEB mining. The tribal villagers were unaware of this. In the beginning, they had a meeting with the Adani officials.
The officials assured the displaced locals that the money they received would be utilized for their employment and a different but better place to live happily. But later the villagers found that a proposed 14 blocks were going to open.
Now they realized that if that were to happen (opening of the 14 blocks), then a vast number of villages would vanish. Not just that, but the dense forest, its ecological richness, the tribal traditions and identity, everything would fade away.
It was decided that hereon, if one village is displaced, then the other villages will collectively oppose the move. That’s why the Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsha Samiti was made, not to save just one village but the whole of the forest.
The Hasdeo jungle is one of the oldest forest ranges in India. Overnight, a fake clearance was given to cut 2 lakhs trees in the area. Within a few days, over 200 huge trees were cut, in the middle of the night.
On 26th April this year, the police force of 100 in number arrived, to help the team from the forest division chop down the trees, through the drilling machines. They had surrounded the area, knowing fully well about the opposition by the villagers.
People woke up to the sound of the machines at 3 a.m and ran to the spot, protesting vehemently. The police and the team had to stop the operation midway.
The locals were aghast to see in the morning, the trees as old as 100 to 200 years being cut down, trees of Mahua and Saal (teakwood) lying on the ground. Tribals believe that cutting off the trees at night is an act of robbery.
How did it all start:
The entire Parsa coal block is a sacred place that’s worshiped by the villagers. On the 25th of April, there was a puja of Lord Mahadev at the Devasthal, amidst the trees at a particular spot. People worship here first and then sow the seeds of crops.
The very next morning, at 3 a.m, the police force came to oversee the cutting of trees. The villagers were hell-bent on halting the operation to cut the forest. They said the jungle gave them shade, fruits to eat, and above all a livelihood. And they won’t survive without these forests.
The entire community here has been objecting to the fake clearance given in 2015 to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited to fulfill the demands of power supply in their state. And the Adani’s Enterprises was brought in to carry out the work of clearing the forest as well as excavating the coal.
What was the next step:
- On 26.04.2022 – At the Parsa basin, the same day when over 200 trees were cut, local activists were informed, whose messages went viral on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- On 27.04.2022 – There was a court hearing at the High Court of Chhattisgarh, based on the disclosure from the activists. The High Court expressed its dismay over the cutting of the trees for the mining and asked,
“Can the lives of the trees be brought back?”
- On 28.04.2022 – National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), whose approval is very important, took notice of the appeal. Along with the National Board for Wild Life, NTCA wrote to the State government that not a single clearance was given for deforestation.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change also sent a letter to the chief of the State Forest Department and asked why there wasn’t any clearance for the mining activity and why lots of irregularities were going on.
Awareness in progress:
The operation of clearing the Hasdeo forest for coal mining is currently being suspended indefinitely. The locals want it to end permanently so that the flora and fauna of the jungle are saved, thus reviving the oxygen levels as well as the biodiversity.
Sure, in the 1,70,000 hectares of the forested area of Hasdeo, 5000 tonnes of coal are estimated to be lying beneath the surface. But if the forests are wiped out, tremendous losses would occur.
Villagers accustomed to collecting the forest produce would lose their livelihood. Forest produce worth crores of Rupees are generated from the collection of Mahua, Tendu, and the herbs for the Ayurvedic medicines.
From the Bango dam, small streams flow toward the villages in Janjgir and Chanpa, making their lands fertile. In the absence of the forest, these streams will dry up midway, making the farms ahead devoid of irrigation.
The villagers don’t want employment from the Adanis. They only want to reclaim their land and protect their forests, river streams, and animals, particularly the elephant dwellings.
Because of the cutting of the forests, elephants attack the villages and also move toward the township. Apart from the rich flora, more than 100 kinds of fauna are existing in the forest.
Just for the sake of coal, incredible biodiversity can’t be sacrificed. Ultimately, it’s the treasures above the land that needs to be preserved forever.