Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SAIL may not get nod to mine Chiria

Forest Advisory Panel Asks Ministry Not To Grant Clearance To PSU
Urmi A Goswami NEW DELHI

Akey environment ministry panel, the Forest Advisory Committee, has recommended that the public sector steel major SAIL not be allowed to mine iron ore from the Chiria reserves in Jharkhand. The recommendation is likely to put Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in a tough spot yet again. It is likely to re-open the economic growth versus the ecological and environmental imperatives debate. 

The steel ministry is keen that SAIL be given the clearance to mine the Chiria reserves. These reserves, located in the West Singbhum district of Jharkhand, have depositis of nearly 2 billion tonnes of high grade iron ore. SAIL has the rights to half of these deposits or 1 billion tonne. SAIL has argued that it needs access to the Chiria reserves to fuel its expansion plans. 

However, the forest panel has recommended to the ministry not to grant the clearance. This is because the Chiria mines are located in the Saranda forests bordering Orissa and Jharkhand. This is among Asia’s largest and best sal forests. It is also an important elephant habitat. The Saranda forests area is home to tribal groups like the Ho. 

Uncontrolled mining, both legal and illegal, for iron ore has been destroying the forest and wildlife. The area is dotted with iron ore mining towns including Gua, Chiria, Kiriburu and Noamundi. The impact on the forests has been significant. State forest reports show that that between 1997 and 1999, about 3,200 hectares of forest was lost in the Singhbhum region. Between 2001 and 2003 some 7,900 hectares of dense forests were lost in the East and West Singhbhum districts. Experts say that further degradation of the Saranda forests, which has been affected, will have serious consequences for the area’s considerable biodiversity. It will also have an adverse impact on the livelihood of the local tribal communities. 

The Chiria reserves are located in an elephant corridor and habitat. The report of the Elephant taskforce stated that mines are a major issue in the region, especially in the rich sal forest of Saranda, which is a prime elephant habitat. 

The taskforce report Gajah: Securing the future for elephants in India suggests that Saranda forests “can be secured with careful regulation to protect intact habitat from being fragmented by mines.”

Source: Article Window

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