Tribals oppose cluster of 4 iron ore mines in Zendepar

Vijay Pinjarkar, Times News Network, August 4 2017

After conservationists opposing limestone mines between Tadoba-Andhari and Kawal reserves in tiger corridor in Chandrapur district, the battle against mining has spread to neighbouring Gadchiroli, where villagers disrupted public hearing for iron ore mines in Zendepar in Korchi taluka on Thursday.

The public hearing was called by the district administration to seek environment clearance (EC) for cluster of four mines coming up in survey number 82 in Zendepar.

However, the Iron Ore Project Action Committee, Korchi, alleged the administration with several manipulations. “Though hearing was for only one mine, the idea was to clear all four mines coming up in 45 hectares,” alleged Nandkishore Vairagade, vice-president of the committee.

Vairagade said the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and district administration deliberately kept the hearing at Gadchiroli, which is 130 away from the mining areas. On the contrary, Korchi is just 7km away from Zendepar mining area.

“Though this was done apparently to keep mining opponents at bay, over 600 villagers turned up at the hearing, shocking the officials. There were no chairs to sit and people were forced to sit on the ground,” charged Anil Kerami, chief of the committee.

He added that intimation was issued for proposal of only Anuj Mines & Chemicals Private Limited coming up in 12 hectares. However, plan was to clear all four mines.

“Many gram sabhas did not receive any intimation about the hearing. Due to mismanagement, many villagers were unable to know what was going on in the hearing,” said secretary of the committee Kachribai Kotange.

OF Bhaund, Gadchiroli district mining officer (DMO), admitted that four iron ore mines by different proponents are coming up in the same area in 45 hectares but Thursday’s hearing was for only one mine. Though the mines are proposed on revenue land, good forest and tree cover has come up in the area.

Bhaund admitted there was slight mismanagement as more people turned up for the hearing than anticipated.

However, Vairagade says it not the question of mines coming on revenue land. Communities are dependent on rich biodiversity and forest produce near the mining areas. Mining activity will not only degrade the environment but will permanently destroy livelihood of the locals.

“Over 6,000 families from 90 gram sabhas in Korchi are earning Rs8000-10,000 per month from collection and sale of bamboo and tendu patta in Zendepar, Nandli, Bharitola, Sohle and adjoining areas on which they have got community forest rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006,” says Vairagade.

Even noted social worker from the area, Dr Satish Gogulwar apprehends that for mining hundreds of trees on which locals are dependent are going to be cut. “People are somehow coming to terms after getting rights under PESA and FRA. They have also prepared biodiversity register of the area under the Biodiversity Act of the area. Mining in the area would be a big assault on their rights,” said Dr Gogulwar.

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of environment protection NGO Conservation Action Trust (CAT), too, has sought details about these mining proposals.

“The administration needs to come clear on biodiversity and wildlife studies including flora and fauna in the proposed mining area. Today, though the proposed areas look small, later these proponents demand extension of mining leases,” Goenka says.

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