Coal Victory in Chhattisgarh, India


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Coal Victory in Chhattisgarh, India

Kusmunda coal mine.  PHOTO: Patrik Oskarsson
Kusmunda coal mine.  PHOTO: Patrik Oskarsson

Great news!  India has shelved plans for a massive expansion of one of India's largest coal mines, which would have forced the relocation of 17 villages and impacted 135 schools and 90 public health centers.

Communities in the coal-rich areas of Chhattisgarh State are bearing the brunt of health and environmental impacts of open-pit coal mining.  The Kusmunda coal mine, operated by South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), is one of India's largest mines.  SECL has a poor track record, having expanded the mine several years ago without first obtaining environmental clearance and with disregard for the customary land rights of indigenous communities living near the mine.  The expansion plan would have displaced 9,000 people and nearly quadrupled production of low-grade coal.  ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik reviewed the EIA and identified many instances where SECL provided misleading information to disguise the potential environmental impacts of expanding the mine.  The company also failed to provide a detailed plan for relocating and resettling villagers.  Mark referenced Google Earth images covering an eight-year period and discovered the company has reclaimed virtually no land since mining operations began, even though it is supposed to be progressively restoring land throughout the life of the project.  Community members raised these concerns at a public hearing in February, pressing for the expansion plans to be rejected.

Yesterday, the Hindustan Times reported that the Ministry of Environment and Forest's Expert Appraisal Committee has "declined the expansion of a major mine...  citing 'serious' violation of environmental laws, including not being able to maintain air quality in its area of operation."

Burning coal is a leading source of smog, acid rain, toxic air pollution, and greenhouse gases.  ELAW partners around the world are working to keep coal in the ground.  Congratulations to partners in India!

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Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide