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Mining sans social consent
Andhra Pradesh coal firm‚Äôs plan to
convert underground mine to open cast will affect people of eight villages.
The sole coal mining company in Andhra Pradesh‚Äės Godavari
valley, Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), wants to convert its two
underground mines in Manuguru municipal area to open cast. By 2018, it hopes to
do open cast mining in 688 hectares (ha).
As per the Ministry of Environment and Forests‚Äô environmental clearance letter,
four villages, comprising 1,248 households will be affected. These are¬†Padmagudem,
Kommangudem, Eggadigudem and Mallepeli.¬†But residents say the
conversion will affect four more villages‚ÄĒAnnaram, Kondapuram, Anantharam,
Kothakondapuram.¬†Forty per cent of the population here are Scheduled
Tribe and Scheduled Caste (see ‚ÄėPeople in trouble‚Äô). They depend on the forests
for their livelihood.
The proposed project will take away 33.5 ha forestland. This will add to the
1,312 ha forestland already acquired by SCCL.
The company has been operating in over 2,186 ha since 1975,
when the state government granted it the land on 30 years‚Äô lease. In 2008, the
company‚Äôs forest clearance for the land was cumulatively renewed, but without
Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 states gram sabha‚Äôs nod is
mandatory before the grant of forest clearance. ‚ÄúDuring forestland diversions,
consent should be taken from forest-dependent people who may live inside or
outside the forest area,‚ÄĚ says RAVI REBBAPRAGADA of Samata, non-profit working
for tribal rights in the state. He is also a member of the forest rights
The four villages which will be affected as per the ministry
were converted to Manuguru municipality in 2005, making it easy for the company
to acquire land without taking people‚Äôs consent.
‚ÄúMine conversion will enhance production. Underground mine is
less productive and unsafe,‚ÄĚsays S Chandrashekhar, general manager
(coordination). ‚ÄúDisplacement is happening in scheduled areas near the
Godavari. People do not like to leave such areas. But compensation process
has started,‚ÄĚ he says.
Coal mining is essential considering that the state is power
starved, says RAJKUMAR, safety officer. ‚ÄúCoal mining is a one quick solution
to address the power issue,‚ÄĚ he adds.
‚ÄúSocial clearance is essential in scheduled areas.
Converting an area into municipality and grabbing land, thus escaping FRA and
Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), is unjust.‚ÄĚ says Rebbapragada.
PESA defines land acquisition process in scheduled areas.
Company officials contend, ‚ÄúOnly five per cent of the
project‚Äôs total requirement is forestland. We have the district collector‚Äôs
certificates which state that his office did not receive any forest rights
Konda Reddis and Koya tribes live in the eight villages. They collect beedi
leaves, gums, barks and other minor forest produce, and sell them to Girijan
Cooperative Corporation (GCC), a state body. Last year, GCC received 50,000 kg
of gum and barks, 100 quintals of mahua flower and seeds worth Rs.20 lakh, says
A Ramaswamy, divisional manager of GCC.
‚ÄúWe used to live in the
forests‚Äô interiors. SCCL wanted that area and asked us to move out, so we
shifted to Kothakonda puram. Now they want us out from here too,‚ÄĚ says village
head Seetha RamaluOther residents work in agricultural land in and near forest
areas to earn a living. People of Manuguru have also been victims of multiple
displacement. About 12 years ago, SCCL displaced tribals of old Kothakondapuram
to new Kothakondapuram for its mines.
‚ÄúIf displaced, I do not know what I will do for a living,‚ÄĚ
sobs Padma Chukuma of Padmagudem.
Clearly, people of Manuguru know how to earn a livelihood
only in forest areas. If displaced to plain areas because of SCCL‚Äôs expansion
plans, their lives will be at risk.
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