Mahagenco’s mining project in Raigarh put on ice

Panel flags ‘incorrect’ details; affected families claim consent for coal mine operation was falsified

December 28, 2019 10:13 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST - Bhopal

Heavy losses: Fly ash from power plants spilling into agricultural fields in Raigarh district. Photo: Special arrangement

Heavy losses: Fly ash from power plants spilling into agricultural fields in Raigarh district. Photo: Special arrangement

Amid enduring protests by villagers against yet another coal mine project in their vicinity, an environmental panel of the Centre has sent back the proposal to seek clearance to operate a coal mine in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh, sighting “hasty” submission of information — that too “incomplete” and “incorrect”.

The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), during its meeting in early December, decided to “return the proposal in its present form” to the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco) to operate the Gare Palma Sector-II coal mine in the Tamnar block, with 22 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) open cast and 1.6 MTPA underground capacity.

In September, during a public hearing for 2,245 project-affected families in 14 villages, residents highlighted impact of existing projects on groundwater and air quality, damage to fields due to spillage of fly ash, cracks in houses caused by blasting and fires in coal mines and stockpiles. Hundreds claimed their consent was falsified in the first place and protested on the spot, resulting in the police booking 54 of them.

Clarifications sought

Seeking clarifications and inputs on 20 points, the EAC has asked for compliance report on the issues raised during the hearing with “certain timeline and allocation” and a social impact assessment study for the proposed displacement of tribals and the Scheduled Castes.

Furthermore, the company has to provide details relating to the impact on villages present in the core zone (not proposed to be displaced) of the mine, from where coal will be transported to three thermal power plants in Maharashtra to help “reduce the gap in demand and production of electricity” in the State.

As for impact on water, a “hydrological study and impact of mining activity on hydrology shall be submitted from the expert agency” and permission for the extraction of groundwater shall be obtained from the Central Ground Water Board.

For using surface water from the Kelo river for three initial years as proposed, the company will need to seek permission from the authority concerned. And it needs to provide details regarding hazardous waste generation (if any) and disposal of waste.

The project, with an area of 2,583.48 hectares, will entail the diversion of 214.87 hectares of forest land. While 80% of the land (2077.69 hectares) is agricultural, settlements are spread across 90 hectares.

‘Beyond capacity’

Recently, a five-member panel set up by the National Green Tribunal found the Tamnar-Gharghoda region, which has 13 coal mines and 12 power plants, close to exceeding its environmental carrying capacity.

The team also highlighted the negligence by the existing projects, with at least 27% of the fly ash from power plants being dumped in low-lying areas in a highly unscientific manner, destroying agricultural fields.

The EAC also noted the carrying capacity of the area should be considered given “the presence of the other coal mines and mitigation measures shall be proposed accordingly”.

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