State forest department says yes to yet another mine in Tadoba-Kawal corridor

Vijay Pinjarkar, Times News Network, 20 July 2017
Representative image
Representative image

It seems the Maharashtra forest department is on a mining clearance spree in tiger corridor areas. In a fresh onslaught on Tadoba-Kawal corridor, forest department has recommended diversion of 229 hectares of rich forest for limestone mining near Naokari-Kusumbi village in Chandrapur district.

Earlier this year, it recommended diversion of 293.12 hectares of rich forest for limestone mining at Shedwai in Chandrapur in the same corridor. The fresh lease area is just 16km away from Shedwai.

Over 44,360 trees would be cut for the proposed mine expansion. This is contradictory to the state’s 50 crore plantation drive to improve green cover. The diversion proposal will come up for discussion at the MoEFCC’s forest advisory committee (FAC) in Delhi on Thursday.

In a representation to the FAC, environment protection NGO Conservation Action Trust (CAT) has picked up holes in the clearance by forest department and has demanded to set up expert committee to review both the mining projects in Shedwai and Naokari-Kusumbi.

This will be the third forest diversion proposal for the limestone mine. Earlier, clearance for 238.96 hectare forest was granted on November 28, 2001. Simultaneously, a diversion of 190.42 hectares was allowed on October 24, 2007.

“There are already many mines functioning in the corridor between Kawal and Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserves. Such piecemeal clearances have fragmented the forest and severely impacted wildlife corridor between protected areas like TATR, Kawal, Bor, Chaprala & Tipeshwar. There have been record tigers moving from Tipeshwar and Tadoba to Kawal,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, CAT.

Goenka said, comments on site visit on January 9, 2017 by a scientist from MoEFCC regional office are ambiguous. The report has no details on species of trees to be cut and no biodiversity survey too. The forest department representative too informed that no significant wildlife is found in the area.

Forest department said common species found in the area include monkey, common hare, hyena, fox, blue bull, wild boar etc. It informed about presence of leopard. However, Goenka said presence of wild animals indicates the area is a wildlife corridor.

The area proposed for diversion falls in the Godavari Basin and is an important catchment area. The Amal-Nalla Dam is located north to the existing limestone mine. The tributaries and the groundwater from this area are the main source for the Amal-Nalla Dam.

The mine expansion will severely impact groundwater table. No studies have been conducted on the impact of limestone mining on Amal Nalla reservoir, located 3.37km from the existing mine site.

There are already many factors like encroachments, mining, transmission lines and irrigation projects impacting this landscape. “Expansion of mining project will further aggravate the situation. Efforts should be taken to strengthen the fragmented corridor and not clear forests for mines,” said Suresh Chopne, member, regional environment committee (REC).
Chopne demanded detailed studies on the impact of tree felling, loss of forest cover, catchment area and wildlife corridor.

Interestingly, even as 44,360 trees will be felled and environment will be degraded, compensatory plantation will be done in areas outside Vidarbha in Nanded and Ratnagiri, far away from the mine area. However, on FAC website, no afforestation plan was found.

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