Columns

A new threat to forests

A Srinivas | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on July 10, 2016

bl11_think_wood log.jpg

Mining exploration policy moots open sesame regime

Little noticed in the recently announced National Mineral Exploration Policy is a disturbing suggestion to relax forest laws to facilitate easy access to forests. Exploration work, according to the policy, may call for digging “20 boreholes per sq km in case of coal, lignite and metallic ores, and 16 per sq km in case of non-metallic ores”, whereas the forest laws allow for “drilling up to a maximum of 20 boreholes per 10 sq km in case of coal, lignite and metallic ores, and a maximum of 16 boreholes per 10 sq km in case of non-metallic ores…provided there is no felling of trees.”

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has already done its bit to make prospecting activity easier. The mineral policy acknowledges that “site inspection…will be insisted only if the actual area of the forest land proposed to be utilised for…drilling of bore holes is more than 100 hectares” and that compensation will come into play only if there is “permanent change in the land use due to prospecting activity”. While central officials say that prospecting and exploration, unlike mining, does not affect forests, the issue is complex. This is because the Mining and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 2015 permits the issue of mining-cum-prospecting licences, extension of the lease area, and transfer of such leases.

The Centre also wants to introduce exemptions to the Forest Rights Act 2006 which says that adivasi gram sabha consent must be obtained before transferring land to a private entity — and step up so-called compensatory afforestation. The alienation of millions who depend on forests has been overlooked. Prakash Javadekar has been rewarded for his pushy stint at the MoEF. His successor, Anil Madhav Dave, would be expected to do the same.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on July 10, 2016
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor