Forest panel warns of ‘fait accompli’ state of affairs to requests of mining earlier than nod

Union atmosphere ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has taken a cautious method to requests from the coal ministry about permitting mining operations in non-forest land earlier than prior clearance. To keep away from “fait accompli” conditions the place mining begins earlier than requisite permissions are granted, the FAC has directed the atmosphere ministry’s regional workplace to arrange a briefing paper on inter-dependency of forest and non-forest land the place mining includes each land varieties.

The minutes of FAC’s assembly on June 25, revealed on Parivesh web site final week and seen by HT, present the panel held its view on stopping “fait accompli conditions” regardless of senior officers suggesting that such tasks be allowed to start out operations with out forest clearance.

Coal India Restricted, in a letter dated July 14, 2020, and the coal ministry, in a letter dated August 14, 2020, requested the atmosphere ministry to permit graduation of mining operations the place Stage-I approval and atmosphere clearance has been obtained and to chill out the quorum of Gram Sabha prescribed. Subsequently, a reference was additionally acquired from the secretary (coal) the place the request was reiterated.

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To keep away from conditions, the place funding made for commencing mining operations grow to be infructuous in case forest clearance is lastly denied, the atmosphere ministry, in its pointers, says that work on non-forest land shouldn’t be began until the ultimate forest clearance (Stage-II approval) of the Centre is granted.

Coal ministry and Coal India Restricted’s request was earlier thought of by the FAC in November 2020 when it noticed that agreeing to the request as such might create “fait accompli “conditions and can’t be agreed as a basic precept. For particular circumstances wherein the forest land/non-forest land is already damaged inside an space having permitted mining plan, permission for graduation of mining operation within the non-forest space could also be thought of by the State authorities after acquiring Stage I approval based mostly on sure circumstances.

The atmosphere ministry sought authorized opinion from the legislation and justice ministry on the matter. The legislation ministry noticed: What might represent a fait accompli state of affairs is a query of truth and never the query of legislation and subsequently, the executive Ministry is suggested to look into all facets of a challenge and whereas granting clearances of Stage-I or Stage-II take all vital measures that require to be taken to keep away from a fait accompli state of affairs.”

Primarily based on the authorized opinion, FAC held that work shouldn’t be began on non-forest land until approval of the Centre to be used of forest land beneath the Forest Conservation Act is given. Solely in particular circumstances, the Centre can think about graduation of mining operations in non-forest land having forest land/non-forest land damaged up inside an space having permitted mining plan and wherein Stage-I Forest clearance has been granted.

The minutes state that the secretary of the atmosphere ministry didn’t agree with FAC’s cautious method. He’s quoted within the minutes saying: “I don’t agree with suggestion of FAC. Regardless that lease space might embody forest space, we’re beneath no obligation to grant forest clearance. There will be no fait accompli. If PP undertakes mining operation in non-forest space, it’s none of our enterprise to cease it and positively casts no obligation on us to grant FC… we have now completely no jurisdiction over non-forest land and shall not bask in overreach.”

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FAC mentioned it requires extra info to decide and mentioned the difficulty with varied regional workplaces of the atmosphere ministry.

The FAC determined that the Bhopal workplace will put together a complete nationwide briefing paper on the inter-dependency of forest and non-forest land in case of mining and what safeguards are wanted to stop ecological injury.

“We had an extended dialogue. Some senior officers had a unique view, however FAC lastly determined to take time and examine the matter as a result of numerous such tasks might have an enormous affect,” mentioned an atmosphere ministry official, who didn’t need to be named.

Kanchi Kohli, authorized researcher, Centre for Coverage Analysis, mentioned: “The FAC’s method to not permit for work on non-forest land is socially simply, ecologically cheap and legally sound. Traditionally, the political financial system of fait accompli has at all times labored within the favour of mine homeowners, freeway contractors, or dam builders. Permitting for work on non-forest land will make the ministry complicit in setting the stage for forest diversions. This may neither be an harmless interpretation nor an ignorant resolution by a ministry that has the mandate to guard forests.”

A Coal India Restricted spokesperson mentioned he can not reply instantly as to why such a request concerning the graduation of mining earlier than the ultimate forest clearance is granted was made.

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