Jharkhand mulls mining in Ho tribe`s homeland
Nitin Sethi, TNN | Jun 1, 2012, 03.05AM IST
NEW DELHI: The Centre`s Saranda Action Plan for "all around development" of the Naxal-dominated 820 sq km patch in Jharkhand could soon come to naught with the state government planning to open iron ore mines in nearly 600 sq km of the largest sal forest in Asia.
TOI has documents showing that the Jharkhand government has sought and received applications for mining in more than 500 sq km of the dense forests -- home to the Ho tribe that the Union government wants to bring development to. Around 95 sq km of the forest is already leased out for mining.
Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh pushed and got a Rs 150 crore special package to develop roads, community centres, hospitals, schools, provide jobs and set up CRPF camps in the heart of the dense forest that has remained an impenetrable zone for the administration - with the government finding several `lost` villages just recently.
But much of this could become redundant if the Jharkhand government`s plans come true with almost the entire green patch wiped clean with coal pits dotting the landscape and a few Ho villages left spattered around. Of course, it would also be then flooded with a new world of contractors, labour and all the paraphernalia of the mining industry.
At the moment, some of the leased out mines are not operational and most of them lie on the eastern fringe of the sal forests. But once all the proposed mines become operational, the forest, which is also a critical elephant terrain, could be fragmented beyond recognition.
The Union environment ministry had previously given clearance for Chiriya mines inside the Saranda forests despite internal views against the move and now SAIL has come back for more. This time, the ministry, while entertaining SAIL`s demand for opening another 635 hectares, has demanded that the state government first share the entire mining plan for the region before it takes a call though it is still not mandatory for the ministry to take an overall view of the area or get a cumulative impact assessment done before hiving off individual patches.
The National Green Tribunal has suggested such a process to understand the larger picture while giving particular clearances.