ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Two Coal Blocks and a Political Story

The controversy surrounding the clearances given to the Mahan and Chhatrasal coal blocks that are located within forested areas in Madhya Pradesh illustrates the continuing tussle between environment and conservation on one side and regulatory trade-offs in the interests of speedier economic growth on the other. It also exposes the conflicting approaches and attitudes within the government.

The sal forests falling within the catchment of the Mahan river have found themselves bang in the middle of the coal-forest conundrum facing India today. Private companies and high-profile committees are lobbying to gain control of these forests, located in Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh, to mine the coal. At present, these forests support the livelihoods of several forest-dwelling communities.

Mahan and Chhatrasal are two proposed captive coal blocks in this region. They exemplify the narrative of regulatory trade-offs and political influence that surrounds the coal-forest debate in the country. Both have received their first stage approval for forest diversion by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). This approval, which is mandatory under the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA), 1980, came after stiff opposition from within the ministry both on the grounds of destruction of the rich forest cover as well as the large-scale social impacts this diversion would have on tribal and other forest-dwelling communities.

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