Nagpur, India: A GIS analysis released by Greenpeace, an NGO working for environment protection, revealed that coal mining threatens over 1.1 million hectares forest in 13 coalfields in Central India. The analysis; ”How coal mining is trashing tigerland”, conducted by the Geoinformatics Lab at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India, overlaid maps of 13 coalfields with forest cover, protected area boundaries and the latest government data on presence of tigers, elephants and leopards.
The 13 coalfields include Singrauli, Sohagpur, Sonhat, Tatapani, Hasdeo-Arand, Mandraigarh, Auranga, North Karanpura, West Bokaro, Talcher, Ib Valley, Wardha and Kamptee. These coalfields are in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Vidarbha.
The analysis revealed that almost all coalfields overlap with endangered species habitat. Of the 1.1 million hectares of forest at risk, over 1,85,000 hectares are inhabited by tigers, over 2,70,000 hectares by leopards and over 55,000 hectares by elephants.
Saying that the blackout in Northern India is not a reason to fast-track coal projects, Ashish Fernandes, coal campaigner with Greenpeace said, “The blackout is a wake-up call for the government to revisit its unsustainable energy policy. We need to diversify our power generation sources as well as our distribution model.”
The report highlighted the massive costs India is facing from the huge expansion in coal mining. The mines will impact eight tiger reserves and corridors, including Tadoba-Andhari, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Sanjay-Dubri, Kawal, Satkosia, Simlipal and Palamau. These reserves have been identified by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as essential for the long-term survival of the species, yet face the threat of coal mining.
Greenpeace warned the analysis is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are approximately 40 coalfields in Central India, many of them in forest areas. “The study focuses on coal mining”s impact on mega fauna, but the loss of forests is also going to hit communities dependent on them. The era of cheap coal is over. Across India, from mine to power plant, communities are questioning coal as a source of electricity and asking for sustainable alternatives,” Fernandes said.