Greenpeace cautions bidders on 39 coal blocks ahead of auction

Friday, 7 August,New Delhi : NGO Greenpeace India on Friday claimed that a significant number of coal blocks which would be up for auction later this month fall in ecologically critical areas due to which they are likely to face delays in securing clearances and “advised” the bidders to stay away from them.

The NGO, which has been mired in controversy of late over alleged violations of rules, alleged that by continuing to put forests up for mining, government is being “short-sighted” as it will harm the environment and at the same time mean higher risks for project developers as well.

“Out of the 101 blocks earmarked for auctioned by the coal ministry this year, at least 39 are in ecologically critical areas, covering a total forest area of more than 10,500 hectares.

“These blocks are likely to face significant delays in securing clearances, apart from the likelihood of legal challenges and opposition from affected communities,” the NGO which conducted a Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis said in a statement and added that auction of another set of coal blocks is likely to take place between August 11-17.

It said that the blocks were spread in eight different states including Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

About 35 blocks are in tiger, leopard or elephant habitat and 20 are within 10 kilometres of a protected area or identified wildlife corridor.

“Potential bidders are advised to stay away from at least these 39 identified blocks and to assess independently the forest, livelihoods and wildlife issues of the blocks they intend to bid on,” the NGO said.

“By continuing to put good quality forests up for mining, the government is being short-sighted. This will harm the environment and will also mean higher risks for project developers, investors and shareholders as it will lead to more conflict, legal challenges and community opposition, as we saw in the case of the Mahan coal block in Singrauli,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, a Greenpeace activist.

Noting that the coal scam and the Supreme Court verdict presented a golden opportunity to make amends, he said that a transparent, scientifically rigorous inviolate forest policy was the right thing to do in order to rearrange coal mining in such a way that it had less impact on forests, tribal communities and wildlife.

“At the same time, this would have ensured a greater certainty for investors and project developers but the Environment Ministry has showed it is unable or unwilling to protect some of India’s last remaining forests from mining,” said Sivalingam.