“Energy Independence of India”- International and Economic Implications and Planning for Coal Block Diversion

Ravindra Nath Saxena

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This write up, a critical analysis by Ravindra Nath Saxena should prove a milestone in understanding the energy needs of the country. It will aid and help the project proponents to understand the entire mechanis of obtaining “forest clearance” under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and “wildlife clearance” under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity rich countries, harbouring a wide variety of flora and fauna. The country is home to 5198 species of vascular plants and about 6802 species of wildlife; but the country has witnessed extinction of 21 species and have large list of fauna and flora in “red data book”, which signify species vulnerable to extinction.

The forest area of the country is 7,57,740 sq.kms., which is 23.41% of the geographical area. The country is having 3,99,919 sq.kms of “reserve forests” (not burdened with privileges) and 2,38,434 sq.kms. of “protected forest” (communities are having traditional privileges for Nistar). There are 602 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves covering area of 1,55,678 sq.kms [notified under Sections-18, 35 and 36A; Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972]. Among these protected areas an intricate web of wildlife corridors are situated along with Important Bird Areas (IBAs), wildlife activity areas, CITES sites, sites covered under international conventions etc.

India’s forest land is having heterogeneous origin and sometimes covered under blanket notifications. These blanket notifications were the need of hour in 1940s to 1960s; but with the passage of time reforms have not taken place due to lack of vision. In nutshell, the situation is extremely complicated. The Supreme Court of India has passed about 1300 judgements in the Civil Writ Petition No. 202/1995, T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad versus Union of India. Some of these orders have been reported in law journals, but some have not been reported. The order dated 12th December passed in this PIL define “forests” and “forest land”, thus very important for any coal or mineral block planning. The important coal and Coal Bed Methane (CBM) are situated in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Meghalaya. These States are having 31 to 45% forest cover. The States are having 37% to 80% tribal population in different districts. There are 584 coal blocks in India. About 23 coal blocks are situated in Teak forests (Tectona grandis) and rest 561 are located in Sal forests (Shorea robusta). These “coal range” States are having large number of protected areas and also having large populations of Tiger (Panthera tigris, Fam. Felidae) and Asiatic Elephants (Elephas maxima, order Proboscidia). There are certain ”specified” and “un-specified” corridors of these wildlife species that have got serious ramifications for the linear infrastructure like haulage roads, railway lines and sidings, power transmission lines, water pipelines, conveyor belts, and coal washries for coal transportations.

“Energy Independence of India”: Economic and International Implications
India is having dire shortage of fuel minerals. Particularly petroleum crude, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). India is importing about 85% of the domestic demand of petroleum products, with the import bill of INR Rs. 12,00,000/-Crores per annum. Though India is having vast coal reserves, but India produces about 870 MT coal only. And in financial year 2019-20, the country imported 274 MT coal with the foreign exchange outgo of about INR Rs. 1,58,000/-Crores. India signed 1-2-3 Agreement with United States for supply of Uranium and similar protocols were signed with Canada & Australia. But these countries have not supplied Uranium to India and consequently “nuclear power generation” is suffering to a large extent.

Thorium Based Nuclear Power Generation
The well developed technology for “Thorium based nuclear power generation” is not developed, though India is having ample reserves of Monazite and Ilmenite. Due to these reasons, India is forced to rely on import of coal resources for energy needs.

Chinese warship and Sub in Indian Ocean

World is Polarising
India mostly imports petroleum crude from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Katar, Nigeria, United States of America, Venezuela, Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc. But most of this petroleum crude supply passes through middle-east Asia. The Red Sea, Suez Canal, Gulf of Eilath and Strait of Hormuz, there are 4 critical supply passages, where these crude supplies can be blocked with little effort. The world is polarising after COVID-19 pandemic into 2 alliances – the Northern Alliance comprising of China, Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey and the Southern Alliance – comprising of USA, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Japan and Australia. The Indian Ocean and the “Strait of Malacca” is developing into a big “flash point” in international trade. With the setting-up of Chinese Naval Bases in Coco Islands, Myanmar; Cox Bazar, Bangladesh; Trincomalee, Sri Lanka and Seychelles in recent times, the alarm bells are ringing for India to secure “energy supply routes” or be ready to face huge energy crisis during war. Though our Northern border is tense due to expansionist China and misadventure by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but the real war will take place in the Indian Ocean, threatening our petroleum crude and coal supplies. India gets coal supply from Madagascar, Indonesia and Australia; in case of war our coal supply will be under serious threat from these countries. Our past experience with Indonesia and Iran is not amicable, these countries are not trustworthy. Moreover, India is deficient in “metallurgical coal” and there is hardly any availability of this high grade coal in the international market. Consequently, India will be forced to open new “coal or other mineral mines” immediately or face serious “energy crisis” in case of tension or war.

Integrated Energy Policy, 2020 & National Steel Policy, 2017
The Integrated Energy Policy, 2020 provides that the country is required to produce / import 2600 million tonnes of coal to generate 8,00,000 M.W. of thermal power. Even in “best case scenario” (BCS), India is required to depend on domestic coal to the tune of 55-58%. The alternative resources of energy can account for 11% only by 2032. Thus the country has to develop coal sector to achieve and maintain GDP growth rate of 8-10% per annum. The availability of coal in international market is going down heavily, particularly metallurgical coal. No country can sustain GDP growth rate of 8-10%, based on “imported energy”. India has suffered badly in “import of petroleum crude” and the country cannot repeat this disastrous experience in coal resources, now.

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National Steel Policy, 2017
The National Steel Policy, 2017 envisage steel production and consumption of 300 MT, by the year 2030. While India’s current steel production is only 60 MT. To enhance steel production to 300 MT tonnes, India requires about 274 MT of additional iron-ore. This quantum of iron-ore has to be indigenously produced in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, and may be Karnataka. The country cannot import every mineral, or the consequences would be disastrous for the economy of India. Moreover, minerals are very heavy and transportation is cost intensive in terms of logistical management.

Statutory clearances Required for the Operation of Greenfield and Brownfield Operations
After the promulgation of the Constitution of India on 26 January, 1950, the “Forests” were placed in the “State List” (Seventh Schedule, List-II), but in the 27th year of the Republic of India under the recommendations of the National Agriculture Commission a need was felt to upgrade the status of “forests” from the “State List” to “Concurrent List”. Accordingly the Constitution 42nd (Amendment) Act, 1976 was passed and as per Section-57 “Entry-17A. Forests” was inserted in the “Concurrent List” (Seventh Schedule, List-III). The Part-XI of the Constitution of India, Chapter-I, Legislative Relations, Distribution of Legislative Powers defines the relations between the Parliament and State Legislative Assembles. The Articles­245, 246, 249, 250 and 251 provide insight about the Centre-State Legislatures relations. The Article-251 and 254 throws light on the inconsistency of the legislation made by the Parliament under Article-249 and 250 and laws made by the Legislatures of States. Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a law adding to, amending, varying or repealing the law so made by the Legislature of the State. The 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976 has empowered the Parliament to effectively legislate on forest related issues.

In 1978, the Govt. of India issued directive to all State Governments to check indiscriminate diversion of forest areas for non-forest purposes. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 is silent about diversion, assignment and treatment of forest crop under the statutory authority of the Union of India. It was the need of hour, before enactment of Forest (Consrervation) Act, 1980 the rate of diversion was about 1,75,000 to 1,80,000ha. / annum; which has been reduced to about 15,000ha./annum after the enactment of FCA. But the response of most of the State Governments was lukewarm in this matter and the situation forced the Central Government to proclaim Presidential Ordinance for “Forest Conservation Act” on 25 October, 1980 to regulate diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.

Under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, prior approval of the Central Government is mandatory for diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes. Since the enactment of the Act, the rate of diversion of forest land has come down to around 15,000 hectares per annum from 1.75 to 1,80 lakh hectares per annum, before 1980. During 2019, more than 4000 proposals from various State and UT Governments were processed under the FCA. The Section-2(i) of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 abridges powers of State Governments to denotify forest areas. When we read provisions of FCA and IFA together, Forest Settlement Officers (FSO) cannot excise / delete forests areas burdened with rights from forest blocks without obtaining prior approval of the Central Government. Even lands of proposed forest blocks, notified under Section-4 of Indian Forest Act, 1927 cannot be denotified by the State Government, without prior approval of the Government of India.

The following “statutory clearances” are required for the operation of Greenfield / brownfield mines in India:

A. “Forest Clearance” under Section-2(ii) of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The “forest clearance” is accorded by the GoI, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MOEF&CC) after the case has been assessed by the State Advisory Group (SAG) under 40 hectares and above 40 hectares by the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC).

B. “Environment Clearance” under Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 (the said Notification is under revision), under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Since Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 is under revision, hence it is beyond the scope of this article. Still, most of the baseline data required for environment clearance rely heavily on the status of forests, wildlife, biodiversity and impact on human population.

C.“Wildlife Clearance” under the Section-38O(g) of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – since most of the coal / mineral blocks affect wildlife and linear infrastructure causes interference in “wildlife corridors. The “wildlife clearance” is accorded by the Standing Committee, National Wildlife Board, MOEF&CC, GOI. For this purpose, the proposal can be submitted to Divisional Forest Officer / Field Director / Chief Conservator of Forests; after due scrutiny it will be forwarded to the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State and placed before the State Wildlife Board for approval. Then the proposal is placed before the Standing Committee, National Wildlife Board, MOEF&CC, GOI for final approval.

All projects (including coal and other mineral mines) adversely affect wildlife of the landscape. The project proponent is required to commission a study on the “Wildlife Impact Assessment” (WIA) and based on WIA, a “Wildlife Habitat Management Plan” (WHMP) is prepared to reduce the adverse impact of the mining project. Accordingly mitigation prescriptions are evolved to reduce the adverse impact. If hydro-structures are being constructed for water supply or ash dykes of Thermal Power Plants (TPP), a detailed study of water resources is also required. The habitat of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves are under “prohibitory regimes” of Section-20 and 29 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, hence mining is not allowed. The “buffer zones” have been notified as “Eco-Sensitive Zones” (ESZs) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and accordingly mining is ordinarily not permitted, however certain infrastructure may be permitted, if there is no adverse impact to habitat or wildlife.

The Ministry of Coal, GOI can acquire any area under the provisions of Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development) Act, 1957 or Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 (an Act further to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and to amend the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015) assign said land to the project proponent. But for the operation of the mines, all above mentioned statutory clearances are mandatory.

Perspective Planning for Coal Sector
To achieve the target production of 2600 million tonnes by 2032 (based on Integrated Energy Policy, 2020), the country is required to open about 300sq.kms of Sal (Shorea robusta, family Dipterocarpaceae) forests, may be the country have to realign some of the “wildlife corridors” to develop coal and iron-ore infra-structure; with meticulous “Mitigation Planning” to reduce adverse “ecological damages” and to protect our amazing wildlife and biodiversity. To achieve these ambitious targets, the country is required to get prepared the two perspective plans to have perspective, visionary planning and guidelines for Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC) and Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), Standing Committee of the National Wildlife Board, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), GoI and the Judiciary as well. The GOI is planning to invest INR Rs. 50,000/-Crores for development of coal and mineral infrastructure. Without these perspective coal development plans, the development of this gigantic infrastructure is not possible.

Perspective Coal Development Plan, 2025
The Coal Development plan may include issues of violate forest and wildlife areas (may include other minerals also like iron-ore, Bauxite, Copper, CBM etc.) with vision for “Mitigation Planning”. The Plan may address the issues / requirement for inviolate areas, to be developed for “coal mining” by 2030, if need arise. Develop “cluster coal mines”. Simultaneous identification of linkages / infrastructure – transmission lines for development / operation, forest land required for placing overburden dumps (OBD), conveyor belt, safety zone, ash dykes, landscape plan, buffer zones, coal handling plants (CHP), road and infrastructure for transport, construction of hydro-structure for water supply, water supply pipelines, coal beneficiation plants, etc. For this exercise, the Government is required to get prepared composite maps of forests, geological formations, wildlife protected area and corridors and surface water available in these catchments. This exercise can determine quantum of coal available in “violate forest areas”. The coal potential of “inviolate forest areas” may be determined and suitable mitigation may be planned in advance. The adverse impact of Climate Change and scanty / no regeneration in Sal crop should be analysed and the age of “Senescence” may be determined assessing crop conditions. The wildlife habitat will be subjected to “Wildlife Impact Assessment” and “Wildlife Habitat Management Plan”, “Wildlife Rehabilitation & Resettlement Plan” (in case of the destruction of the habitat)s shall be prepared to reduce the adverse impact on wildlife. The wildlife corridors may be mapped by radio-collaring of adequate Asiatic Elephants and Tigers and the ramification may be assessed for transportation corridors and transmission lines. The wildlife corridors and transportation corridors shall be subjected to “camera traps” and CCTV monitoring to assess the traffic and impact of development of mining in these areas. The tools shall be developed for “ecological risk analysis”, “landscape planning” etc. Capacity building for “tree transplantation” techniques and identification of suitable plant machinery. Biodiversity Indexing of “high crown density” forest areas. The “population pyramid studies of wildlife population” shall be carried-out in coal range States to determine the status of wildlife population and adequacy of the available habitat areas. The coal mining and thermal power sectors are drawing huge surface water from natural ecosystems. It has been observed that this is causing stress between the industries and local communities. Additional hydro-structures are required to store water and such areas also require soil moisture conservation (SMC) in catchment areas, since rainfall is dwindling and has become uncertain. Satellite imageries may be obtained / drone technology may be used to determine the status of “coal mined-out areas” and reclamation of mined-out areas.

Perspective Coal Development Plan, 2032
The plan may include issues of “inviolate forest and wildlife areas” and Buffer Zones of Tiger Reserve / National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries. The plan may include other minerals also like iron ore, Bauxite, Copper, CBM etc. with potential target requirement of India; found in these 7 State of Central India. The visionary planning for “Mitigation Measures” shall be further refined to reduce “ecological foot prints”. The Plan may address the issues / requirement for inviolate areas, to be developed for “coal mining” by 2030, if need arise. Developing “cluster coal mines”. Simultaneous identification of linkages / infrastructure – transmission lines for development / operation, forest land required for placing overburden dumps (OBD), conveyor belt, safety zone, ash dykes, landscape plan, buffer zones, coal handling plants (CHP), road and infrastructure for transport, construction of hydro-structure for water supply, water supply pipelines, coal beneficiation plants, etc. The coal potential of “inviolate forest areas” may be determined and suitable mitigation measures may be planned in advance. The adverse impact of Climate Change and no regeneration in Sal crop should be analysed and the age of “Senescence” may be determined looking to crop conditions. If required, measures will be suggested for shifting of “wildlife corridors” to facilitate development and transportation of coal in Central India. Capacity building for “tree transplantation” techniques and identification of suitable plant machineries.

Meticulous Planning for obtaining “forest clearance” under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and “wildlife clearance” under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
The pre-operational planning for obtaining “forest clearance” under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and “wildlife clearance” under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 require very careful planning. The baseline data collected about forest and wildlife shall be useful obtaining “environment clearance” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The “forest proposal” is scrutinised at about 35 levels in the State Government and the MOEF&CC, GOI; hence utmost care is required. The forest proposal is submitted to the MORF&CC, GOI twice – first for obtaining Stage-I sanction and then after compliance of stipulated conditions, for getting Stage-II or final sanction. That the amount for compensatory afforestation (CA), safety zone management plan, net present value (NPV), Wildlife Habitat Management Plan (WHMP) shall be deposited in Compensatory Afforestation & Management Planning Authority (CAMPA). The CAMPA authority had been constituted under the order dated 30th March, 2003. And subsequently CAMPA was brought under the Compensatory Afforestation & Management Planning Authority Act, 2017 and Compensatory Afforestation Rules, 2018 for operation.

The following action is required for obtaining “forest clearance” under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and “wildlife clearance” under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:

  1. Forest area and non-forest area involved : The “forest proposal” require explicit details of diversion area including -Reserve Forests (RF), Protected Forests (PF), unclassed forests, revenue forests, dictionary meaning of forests and DLC (forests according to the District Level Committee) and non-forest area alongwith private holdings. Enclose Cadestral Map of the diversion area, forest stock map and Patwari Revenue Map.
  2. Compensatory Afforestation land & Plan: The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 provides that the project proponent is required to provide equal are of “diversion area’ for compensatory afforestation (CA). But a concession has been provided to the agencies of Central Government to carry-out CA on double degraded forest lands. However the MOEF&CC, GOI may accept the parameter of “double degraded forest lands”; if the certificate of Chief Secretary of the State is submitted, in case of non-availability of non-forest land. The CA scheme should be submitted with the maintenance of 7 years. The suitability of CA land should be certified by the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). If possibility the non-forest land for CA should be situated in close proximity to forest blocks and should be not less then 20 hectare in area.
  3. Mine linkages with the infrastructure: It is advisable to obtain diversion under one proposal only – the “forest proposal” may be submitted with coal / mineral block, transmission line for operation, roads, railway linkage, coal washry, conveyor belts, water supply pipelines, canals, Meri-go-Round, hydro-structures for water storage etc.
  4. Maps required for the forest proposal: The following maps should be submitted with the “forest proposal” : Administrative map exhibiting location in the State and district, exhibiting location of project on forest cover map, also show the location of other mines in the vicinity, sites of non-forest lands identified for CA, map showing national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves, community reserves, Important Bird Areas and Biosphere Reserves etc; Buffer Zones (enclose notifications), wildlife corridors; Patwari map of non-forest areas, forest stock map, Forest Management Map, Cadestral Map of entire diversion area etc.
  5. Tree Enumeration: The “tree enumeration” is carried-out to ascertain the ecological impact of the forest diversion. If the area is upto 10 hectare 100% actual tree enumeration is required. But if forest area is more then 10 hectares, then data of 5% stratified sampling is acceptable. The sample plots should be selected at the spacing of 1”X1”, with area of 1.00 hectare (100 meters X 100 meters) and geo-coordinates, the sample plots should be demarcated with RCC pillars for identification. After tree counting, inventory should be formed, record site quality of the sample plots and crown density. The Biodiversity Indexing should be performed in these sample plots during Monsoon season for determination of Biodiversity Indexes. Carry-out photography and videography from the centre of sample plots to assess the forest crop. The data of “forest inventory’ shall be used for calculation of growing stock, basal area, etc.
  6. Crown Density: The “forest crown density” can be obtained from the forest stock maps. Alternatively a new software” Gap Light Analyser” is available to determine the crown density. The satellite imageries of LANDSAT-III are having serious limitations in determination of crown density.
  7. Photographs and video graph of the diversion area and sample plots: The photographs and videographs of the sample plots and other important formations should be provided for analysis at various levels.
  8. Biodiversity Indexing: The species and their ratios in the sample plots should be determined at the time of tree enumeration. The Biodiversity Indexing should be carried-out in Monsoon or just after this season. The baseline data may be used in calculation of Shanon Weiner Index, Margalef Index, Simpsons Species Richness Index etc.
  9. Crop assessment: The “forest crop” of the diversion area should be assessed in different “Silviculture parameters” including growing stock, status of regeneration, crop composition, proportion of xerophytic / mesophytic species, presence / absence of RET species, signs of senescence observed, any susceptibility to diseases seen, mortality, high forest or coppice crop etc. A sample photo and signs of senescence is enclosed. Prepare a check list of all the species found in the diversion area.
  10. Growing Stock determination: Based on the data collected in tree enumeration and sample survey, the growing stock can be determined and presented in the “forest proposal”.
  11. Forest Crop and Climate Change: The Climate Change (CC) is having very deep impact on forest crop, particularly Sal. Maps depicting impact of Climate Change (CC) are also necessary, besides map depicting reduction in Net Primary Productivity to show the degradation setting in the forest crop.
  12. RET Species found in the diversion area: The proposed diversion area may be habitat of any Rare, Endangered or Threatened species found in the “Red Data Book” of International Union for Conservation of Nature, Zoological Survey of India or Botanical Survey of India.
  13. Forest Crop Assessment under Forest Working Plans: The forest crop should assessed in the context of forest Working Plan prescriptions. To which working circle the diversion area compartments are allotted, regeneration status, observations of the Forest Working Plan Officer, the details of compartment history etc are necessary.
  14. Net Present Value (NPV): Net Present Value is described in simple terms as “forest productivity likely to achieve in next 50 years. The value is calculated according to Faustmann’s Formula. Based on Site Quality and Crown Density, the GOI, MOEF&CC has decided the NPV for different type of forests in 2009. The NPV rates are due for renewal at anytime. That if the diversion area is located in wildlife sanctuary, then 5 times NPV is payable, if the area is part of the national park, 10 times NPV is payable.
  15. GO & NO-GO Areas: The GOI, MOEF&CC constituted a committee to determine the areas which cannot be diverted or which can be considered for diversion. The mechanism is based on certain parameters, but the details are not known in public domain. Based on the report of this committee, the Forest Survey of India has developed “Design Support System” (DSS) with 6 layers of the forest satellite imageries. The accuracy of DSS depends upon the “confidence level” of the baseline data of satellite imageries. The States or GOI, MOEF&CC have not allotted these compartment to GO-NOGO areas, and not issued any notification for this purpose. Hence this system has got very little “reliability value”.
  16. Cost-Benefit Analysis: The Cost-Benefit Analysis is an important tool for the Forest Appraisal Committee for assessment of the diversion case. If the project is not likely to generate adequate profits, even after deforestation, it is not likely to be accepted.
  17. Report of Geological Reserves: The applicant has to legally procure the “Report of Geological Reserve” and submit with the “forest proposal”.
  18. Opencast versus underground Mining: Normally opencast mining is discouraged in forest areas, because it involves large scale deforestations, but underground mine can be acceptable due to lesser “ecological footprints”. The NPV is payable in the case of underground mines also. Depending on the texture of soil strata, considerable drying of forest crop has been noticed in certain underground mines.
  19. Land Subsidence in Underground Mines: A certificate from competent authority is required that the area is not susceptible to land subsidence due to underground mining. If land subsidence takes place, then NPV for opencast caste mine is payable.
  20. Wildlife Assessment: The project proponent is required to commission a study to determine the status of wildlife in diversion area and buffer zone. Also the effect on “wildlife corridors” should be studied and a checklist prepared to determine the population size of various species, especially with details of RET species.
  21. Location in Wildlife Corridors : Though there is no notifications for the “wildlife corridors”, but it should be studied on the basis of areas frequented by wildlife species with special reference to Asiatic Elephants and Tigers. If snapping / fragmentation of corridors are anticipated, then suitable meticulous planning should be performed.
  22. Wildlife Impact Assessment (WIA) and “Wildlife Habitat Management Plan”: The impact of the project, should be assessed on wildlife in diversion area and buffer zone. Even nocturnal, migratory wildlife species should be studied.
  23. Comments of the Chief Wildlife Warden: The comments of CWLW should be obtained on Wildlife Corridors, Wildlife Impact Assessment (WIA) and “Wildlife Habitat Management Plan” of the project. These comments are vital for the proceedings in State Advisory Group / Forest Appraisal Committee and National Wildlife Board.
  24. Objections of certain States related to Elephant Reserves: Certain States are opposing diversion of coal blocks on the ground of “Elephant Reserves”. The Asiatic Elephant population got disturbed in 1986 with the construction of Betla dam in Bihar. After that Elephants have been moving South and Eastwards and exploring new habitats for settlement. The concerning States have not notified any national park, wildlife sanctuary, community reserve or conservation reserve under the Section-18, 35 and 38 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The Section-18 provides that the proposed area should be mapped with ecological, zoological and geomorphological parameters to assess the suitability of the habitat for protected area. No such report or notification is available. The movement of Asiatic Elephants cannot be studied without “radio collaring” of certain male and female Elephants. In the absence of these data / documents, the bonafides of such intentions remain doubtful.
  25. Human Population being affected: Rehabilitation & Resettlement Plan, duly approved by the competent authority under National Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy, 2007, has to be submitted. The GOI, MOEF&CC doesn’t provide forest land for resettlement of ousted population. This facility is available only for oustees of protected areas.
  26. Distance from National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserve, Community Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, Important Bird Areas (IBAs): A map should be prepared on forest cover map of the district or State to display National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserve, Community Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The distance from these protected areas is a crucial parameter for sanction.
  27. Eco-restoration Ratio: The afforestation activities and Wildlife Habitat Management Plan, CA, Safety Zone Management Plan, Greenbelt Plan considerably reduce the footprint of a “diversion project”. It should be calculated and presented in the “forest proposal”.
  28. Mining Plan sanctioned by the Ministry of Coal, GOI: Mining Plan and sanction of the competent authority should be attached with the project The MOEF&CC doesn’t accept any proposal without the Mining Plan.
  29. Reclamation & Mine Closure Plan: The Reclamation Plan and Mine Closure Plan should be prepared and submitted with the “forest proposal”. The proponent should ensure that the diversion area is simultaneously reclaimed along with the progress of mining.
  30. Safety Zone Management Plan: The “Safety Zone Management Plan” should be prepared and submitted. The ecologically vulnerable areas should be adequately strengthened to avoid leakage of mine spills.
  31. Landscape Management Plan: “Landscape Management Plan” for the Buffer Zone of the project should be prepared and submitted with the “forest proposal”.
  32. Certificates: All the undertakings and certificates, should be prepared, signed by the authorised signatory and submitted with the “forest proposal”.
  33. Limitations of Satellite Imageries: The satellite imageries of FSI, NRSA obtained with LANDSAT-III scanner is having serious limitations, especially when analysing “False Colour Composite” (FCC), LIDAR, determination of species composition etc. when operating at a small area. Moreover the angle of the scanner camera is very important factor when determining “forest crown density”.
  34. Presentations before the Chief Wildlife Warden, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, State Wildlife Board: The project proponent should ensure to have a proper presentation before these authorities to submit his arguments before the authorities. The presenter should be prepared to answer the queries of the authorities.
  35. Presentations before the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA, if required), Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC), Standing Committee of National Wildlife Board: The project proponent should ensure to have a proper presentation before these authorities to submit his arguments. The presenter should be prepared to answer the queries of the authorities.
  36. Obtaining “wildlife clearance”: Most of the projects will require “wildlife clearance” under the Section-38O(g) of Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972.
  37. Obtaining Stage-I clearance: The “forest proposal” is considered and recommended by the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC), MOEF&CC, GOI. After getting “administrative approval” of the Minister, MOEF&CC, the Stage-I forest clearance is issued. Mostly Stage-I sanction is not revoked and is valid for 5 years, after that renewal is required.
  38. Compliance of the conditions stipulated in the Stage-I: The compliance of stipulated conditions by the project proponent, which includes transfer of non-forest land for compensatory afforestation, depositing amount for CA, Wildlife Habitat Management Plan, Safety Zone Management Plan, Landscape Management Plan etc. to CAMPA Authority. The compliance report is submitted to the State Government and forwarded to the MOEF&CC for acceptance.
  39. Submission of the compliance report to the MOEF&CC, GOI and obtaining Stage-II sanction: On the basis of compliance report of Stage-I, the MOEF&CC issues Stage-II forest clearance.
  40. Diversion order of the State Government: The copy of Stage-II forest clearance is submitted to the State Government and the State Government issues the “forest diversion order”.
  41. Forest harvesting and handing-over of the area : After the “forest diversion order” is issued, the forest crop is harvested in the diversion area. Project proponent not having ownership on the felled forest crop is required to pay “harvesting expenditure” as assessed by the DFO and sanctioned by the Conservator of Forests.
  42. Correlation between statutory clearances and financial closure: Normally Stage-I forest clearance is required for consideration of the proposal of “environment clearance”. After these two statutory clearances are obtained, the financial institutions may consider “financial closure” of the project.

The author, Ravindra Nath Saxena, is former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted on Emails : ravindra.nath.saxena@gmail.com and ravindrasaxena2001@gmail.com

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