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‘No-Go’ forests cleared for coal mining, says report

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

‘No-Go’ forests cleared for coal mining, says report:


Context:

As per the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE):

  1. Since 2015, of the 49 blocks cleared for coal mining, 9 were in ‘No-Go’ areas, or regions that were once classified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change as containing very dense forests and hence closed to coal mining.
  2. In 2020, of the 41 blocks put up for auction, 21 feature in the original No-Go list.
  3. Currently India is not utilising its existing capacity fully: 67% of the mines auctioned since 2015 are were not operational yet.

What’s the issue?

The environment ministry‘s ban on mining in areas of thick forest cover has locked away millions of tonnes of coal reserves.

According to the power ministry, coal shortage is likely to hold up new power projects of over 17,000 mw aggregate capacity. This has triggered debate among the ministries of coal, power and steel on the ‘Go, No-Go’ concept’s merits.

What are ‘No Go’ areas in coal mining?

In 2009, the environment and coal ministries had jointly placed the country’s forested areas under two categories – Go and No-Go – and imposed a ban on mining in the ‘No-Go’ zones on environmental grounds.

  • ‘No Go’ areas are those having either more than 10 per cent weighted forest cover (WFC) or more than 30 per cent gross forest cover (GFC).

Is there a need for classifying ‘Go’ and ‘No Go’ areas?

The exercise is aimed at prioritising forest areas under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

  • Besides, Diversion of forest land for coal mining in these areas, which are rich in flora and fauna, will have “avoidable serious adverse impact on forests and wildlife”.

If mining were to continue, even with afforestation and reclamation, it would not be possible to restore the regions biodiversity.

Criticisms of this policy:

The concept has no legal standing– They are mandated neither under Forest Conservation Rules, 2003 nor under any circular issued by the ministry of environment and forests.

Sources: the Hindu.