Campaign against Adani Power Ltd. at Lohara, near Chandrapur      
A success story against the proposed coal mine in critical tiger habitat

Two of the very important stories that were making headlines in the contemporary time were acute power shortage, and the shrinking tiger population in indian forests. Though these apparently seemed to be unrelated issues, there could be a situation where we would be forced to make a choice between tiger and power. Though there is no need to emphasise the fact that energy is the most essential requirement for the development at large. Millions of people in small scale industries and unorganised sector are facing acute shortage of electricity and their earning is getting adversely affected as many hours of their productive time is wasted for the need of power. Yet we think, growth cannot be irrational and not the least at the cost of environment and particularly tiger.

Many private industries are venturing into electricity production, which is a welcome move given the total failure of the state to resolve the power crisis. One such private power generation unit coming up at Tiroda in Gondia district of Maharashtra is Adani Power Limited.. This 1330 MW thermal power plant (TPS) was allotted the coal linkages by Ministry of Coal, out of which one coal block was at Lohara, 12 km from Chandrapur. This open cast mining coal block was a 1750 Hectare of forest land on the fringes of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR); one of the very important Project Tigers accredited parks in India. This proposed block was a thick Teak forest with the tree density of 0.7-0.8 and has the Asia’s only Teak GermPlasm Bank. As per rule, 10 km wide area around forest must be declared as a buffer zone. Part of Lohara coal block fell within this buffer zone. The destruction of green cover in this area was going to be massive with the estimated 1.3 million trees being cut. And this was still not the key problem in this project.

A Tigress with 4 cubs at Lohara Forest, where Adani Power were proposing to mine coal

Now that the government of India has accepted that there are just 1411 tigers surviving in the wild in our country. With the declining numbers of the tigers in India, preservation of the big cats’ habitat is of the utmost important. While tiger population is on peril in many sanctuaries, TATR could boast of being one such tiger territory where their population is flourishing. As each tiger demarcates its own territory, tiger requires large area for their population to survive and increase. Also for the healthy future of any species it is important that the gene pool does not get isolated and that the inbreeding is avoided. In case of Tiger, the gene pool would expand only if they migrate to other areas in the vicinity.

Family of the tigress residing in the proposed coal block area

TATR, unlike many other forests, is not a replanted forest, but it is a part of the larger erstwhile ‘Dandakaranya’ forest. These are some of the oldest forests in this country with great diversity of species, both flora and fauna. There is a continuous forest tract, which starts from Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh and through forests of Kanha, Nagzira, Navegaon and some semi-forest areas, is spread all the way up to Indravati forest on the border of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This larger forest is a natural habitat of tiger and there are evidences that the tigers do migrate in this area. The migratory path of tiger in the south direction passes through the area where the Lohara Coal Block was allotted by the Government. This link would have been broken if this corridor was ruined by such indiscriminate mining.

When excavations were done in the areas, which were the traditional migratory tracks of animals like elephants, there are many incidences where even animal deaths have occurred by falling in such mining/quarry pits. In fact the migratory paths of wild animals are so precise that this behaviour was exploited in the past to capture elephants by digging a pit or erecting an enclosure in there paths. So there could have been no sense to the argument that the tigers would possibly change their path.

The amount of coal deposit at Lohara coal block is 170 million tonnes (MT) of which 140 MT are extractable deposit. The stripping ratio at this coal mine is 13:1 which means for extraction of every unit of coal, 13 units of over burden (OB) is required to be removed. Such a large quantity of OB would be dumped over 500 hectares of land and would create a major problem of siltation and pollution. The total removal of coal and OB would be 1960 MT which would be done in next 40 years. This translates into 1,35,000 tonnes of extraction of soil and rocks per day. One need not be an expert in mining to imagine the amount of explosives and the number of explosions that would be required to extract this coal. The vibrations that would generate from such big explosions would travel 20 – 30 km on the ground level. Imagine what would happen to wildlife which is already very sensitive to any kind of underground vibration. All the animals would have been in perpetual state of stress throughout the day when the work would be going on at the mining site.

There are other issues involved which are common to most of the mining leases in India. If we want power we need mining and it would end up in displacement, pollution, underground water level depletion, siltation etc up to a certain extent. But Tiger and prime forest cannot be fiddled with at any cost and there was a need to take firm stand on this issue by all the people concerned. There are many more coal blocks in the adjoining area which could have been allotted for this project. But there were some logistical conveniences which are making them so adamant on this particular block. There is an existing railway line that connects Lohara coal block with the TPS site at Tiroda which would have reduced the transportation cost for the company. But such selfish concerns should not have been allowed to override the bigger issues. Tendency of the power generation company to maximise their profits and the vested interest of the officers and politicians who were blatantly ignoring all the facts, was planning to make tiger pay the price heavily.

To take this issue head on, Srushti came forward. Till then Srushti was more focused on the water conservation work in Bor sanctuary and they had not much experience of fighting big battles. Such a big struggle was not possible to be fought alone, even more when the people standing against them were ministers in Government and biggest business houses in this country. This called for a pressure group, wherein all the NGOs and sensible minds of Nagpur, Chandrapur and for that matter the entire Vidarbha region came under one banner of ‘Ekjoot’ the Alliance. The support from all the walks of life was amazing. Even some politicians across the party lines came forward to pledge their support to the movement started by Srushti. It was a rare occasion to see ‘Chandrapur Bandh’ call given by all the leading political parties together to oppose the mining lease. Environmentalist, conservationists, teachers, businessmen, industrialists, professionals, politicians and the common man stood together with the aim of defeating the motives of miners and their supporters.

National level Electronic Media usually takes up the trivial issues and discusses it for days together while filling remaining time with celebrity gossip. But on such a vital issue, their silence was painfully surprising, barring a few who took up the matter on personal level. But the support of local print media was overwhelming. All the local newspapers of Chandrapur and big dailies from Nagpur highlighted this issue in a big way. It was impossible for the authorities to ignore this.

Srushti floated the website to take the issue further to those people who were not aware of this. There was a major signature campaign launched where srushti collected thousands of signatures of those people who supported our cause. ‘Save Lohara Jungle’ petition was signed on internet as well by many people for whom it was not possible to be present physically.

Yet to safeguard the final interest and to thwart any diabolic motives of the ministry of forest or mining, Srushti went ahead with filing a petition in the court of law. The Public Interest Litigation against the Lohara Coal Mining Lease and on a larger issue of forest land diversion was accepted by Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench. This was one of the landmarks in our struggle. Though the Lohara Mining Lease was subsequently rejected by the Central Government, Srushti has not withdrawn this PIL and we are hopeful that the Honourable High Court would present their view about the larger issue of deforestation and overall apathy of the concerned ministries and administration towards grave environmental issues.

When individuals and small group of people come together it makes up a huge strength. It is then no longer possible for the Government or the administration to ignore their say. This was one of the biggest achievements of this struggle that Srushti could bring so many people on one platform. The rejection of Lohara Mining Project is a huge success for Ekjoot and definitely a feather in the cap for Srushti.

campaign for wildlife

Srushti welcomes like-minded people who share the same dream like ours and would like to contribute their bit towards conservation. Know more how you can join us. [click here]

Campaign against Adani Power Ltd. at Lohara, near Chandrapur

When Srushti Paryavaran Mandal started working at Bor, we realised that water the prime essential for conservation was not up to the mark. Lack of funds was the main reason for this. Srushti undertook the repair work of hand pumps and water bowls inside the sanctuary within a year the thing began to change. To know more about this water conservation program [click here]

Map Diagrams of location
mining around tadoba

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