40,000 Trees In Odisha’s Talabira Village Axed For Mining Project
Fifty years of guarding their forest land has resulted in naught for the villagers of Talabira village in Odisha’s Sambalpur district, for around 40,000 trees have been cut to make way for a coal mine.
On March 28 this year, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) gave Stage II clearance to divert 1,038.187 hectares of forest land for an open cast coal mining project, reports Down To Earth.
The coal mine is a of Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India Ltd in Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts. NLC had signed a mine development and operator contract with the Adani Group in 2018. Quoting the site inspection report of the Chief Conservator of Forest, Sambalpur, Down To Earth reported that the project involves the felling of 1,30,721 trees.
The Plight Of Villagers
The villagers had formed an organisation called Talabira Gramya Jungle Committee and had appointed a guard, paying him three kilograms of rice per family for protecting the forest. All these years, they took it for granted that the forest land was theirs and could never be taken away. That is why they never applied for rights under the Forest Rights Act, (FRA), 2006.Now they are ditraught. About 3000 of them depend on this 970 hectares of forest area.
On approaching the district collector, they were told that the land belonged to the government and they had no right over it. It is clear that no cognisance has been taken of the right of the people despite the fact that under FRA, officials have a responsibility to create awareness among people. None of this was ever done.
“The FRA rules, 2012, require that the concerned officials raise awareness about the Act and its provisions. This is especially important if no claims are forthcoming and can enable the process of filing claims,” reported Down To Earth, quoting Kanchi Kohli, senior researcher, Namati Environmental Justice Programme, Centre for Policy Research.
Moreover, it is reported that Gram Sabha consent has to be acquired before forest diversion. In this case, villagers claim that district officials acquired a fake Gram Sabha consent for carrying out mining but their complaint in this regard to the district collector and the secretary has not been heeded.