The continuing opposition to coal mining in HasdeoArandis a fight for environmental protection, for preserving the densely forested area and its wildlife. For the Adivasi communities living in this designated Fifth Schedule area, it is unimaginable to live a life without this forest.
Despite the strong opposition by the Adivasis, on April 6, 2022, Chattisgarh’s Congress government approved the expansion of the Parsa coal block in the HasdeoArand area. The forest is being cut down for coal mining to proceed. To stall this mining project, which is owned by Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani, the Adivasis even started a Chipko movement, but unbeknown to them, the felling of trees was commenced in the night hours. Images of the movement have been going viral on social media. However, the irony is that for the past several days, the national media has not given any space to this long-running protest of the Adivasis against the coal mining project.
The opposition to the coal mining in HasdeoArand has been ongoing for a decade now. This struggle is a fight for environmental protection and for the preservation of the densely forested area and its wildlife. For the Adivasi communities living in this designated Fifth Schedule area, it is unimaginable to live a life without this forest.
At present, huge numbers of Adivasi peoples are opposing the coal mining project. A Chipkomovement was also started after permission was given for the mining to go ahead. But tree felling is happening stealthily in the night hours when the people have gone back home.
At a time when the whole world is battling against climate change and pollution, how can it make any kind of sense to destroy such a huge forest area just so that corporates can profit?
For the past decade, HasdeoBachaoSangharshSamiti [Committee for the Struggle to Save the Hasdeo Forest], an organization of local gram sabhas [village assemblies] has made every effort to save this priceless forest. Every concerned department has been made aware of this but no solution to the problem emerged.
The Parsa coal block has been allotted to Rajasthan’s state electricity corporation [Rajasthan RajyaVidyutUtpadan Nigam Limited], which has sub-contracted the mining operation to the Adani Group through an MDO [Mine Developer and Operator model for mining operations]. Therefore, it is being seen as a project that is primarily in the interests of and for profiting the Adani group.
Last year, the Adivasis marched 300 km from Surguja to Raipur to save 841 hectares of Hasdeo forest from mining. They even went to Delhi and met Rahul Gandhi, but still the project was given the green signal to go ahead.
In 2010, the Hasdeo Arand area was declared a “No-Go Zone”, which in environmental terms means that this area is reserved for the Adivasi peoples [who live here] and perseveration of their culture, the wildlife in the area, and the River Hasdeo, the main river of the area. Following this, coal mining was banned in this area. However, in 2012, the mining started again, and since then the dispute has continued to the present day.
Earlier in 2016, Rahul Gandhi himself had visitedHasdeo forest. He promised the local Adivasis communities that if his party came into government in the state, they will not allow this forest to be destroyed at any cost. He had also opposed the then state government and stated in Parliament that the BJP state government was handing over an invaluable forest to Adani, which would cause great [environmental] damage to the area. But after the formation of the Congress government, Rahul Gandhi“forgot” his promise, and now the Bhupesh government is doing the same work that the BJP was doing. It seems that opportunism is the prime aim of politics, in which it has become a pattern to make promises to be able to come into government, but then turn away from those promises as soon as the government is formed.
[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]