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Coal mining inside Saleki approved prior to inclusion as SBWL members, claim NGOs

By AJIT PATOWARY

GUWAHATI, May 28 - The role of representatives of NGOs engaged in environment conservation � who are also members of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) � has been unsatisfactory in the case of the approval granted to coal mining in the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest (PRF).

Some such NGO members are now trying to project themselves as �clean�, and are arguing that they were made members of the SBWL just two months prior to its ninth meeting, whereas the issue of granting approval to coal mining inside Saleki was taken up much ahead of their inclusion in the SBWL.

They are now claiming that the ninth meeting had nothing to do with the decision. The SBWL�s ninth meeting was being �informed� of the fact that the expert committee, constituted by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) on July 6, 2015, had sat as per the decision of the 7th and 8th meetings. After revisiting the documents and sites, the expert committee had recommended the proposal for coal mining inside Saleki. The ninth meeting of the SBWL had only �minuted� it.

�Since this issue is a continuous one that perhaps started from at least the 7th meeting, already major discussions and decisions were taken at the earlier meetings. Since the expert committee constituted in earlier meetings already recommended the proposal, there was no detailed deliberation during the 9th meeting. And the members of the newly constituted SBWL were not fully aware that the proposal was in fact looking for a post facto permission,� one of these conservationists said.

�However, the new members insisted that the proposed site should be outside the 10-km radius of the eco-sensitive zone, for which it was minuted in the 9th meeting that the Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, who is the Member Secretary of SBWL, shall confirm by sending a senior officer to the site and only if the proposed coal mining site in Saleki PRF is found to be beyond the 10-km radius from Dehing Patkai WLS, then only shall the CWLW forward the proposal to the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) for further consideration,� the conservationist said.

The matter ended for these conservationists here. They did not raise the issue either in the SBWL�s 10th or 11th meetings. At least the minutes of these two meetings have no mention of their raising the issue of verifying the distance of the coal mining site. The 10th meeting discussed the �Diversion proposals of North Eastern Coalfields, Coal India Ltd Tikak extension open cast project (72.00 Ha)� and �Diversion of 98.59 ha in Saleki PRF under Digboi Division for Tikok OCP Coal mining project by North Eastern Coal Fields, Coal India Limited, Assam� as agenda items No.1 and 2.

On the issue of diversion of 98.59 hectares of land of the Saleki PRF of Tikok OCP Coal Mining Project, the minutes of the 10 meeting has it thus, �The physical verification report conducted by CF (Conservator of Forests), EAC (Eastern Assam Circle), Jorhat was discussed in the meeting and as the site was found to be located just on the boundary of the 10-km radius from the Dehing Patkai WLS, it was considered falling within the Eco-Sensitive Zone. After deliberation on the matter, the board recommended the proposal, subject to compliance to a set of mitigation measures as suggested by the Expert Committee (mentioned above).�

The minutes of both the meetings have no mention of the fact that there was any note of dissent from any of the representatives of the conservation bodies in this connection.

The diversion of the 72 hectares of forest land for Tikak Extension Open cast project was recommended by the 9th meeting of the SBWL to the NBWL and the diversion of the 98.59 hectares of forest land was recommended by the SBWL to the NBWL in its 10 meeting.

The 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India in 1976 shifted the subjects of forest and protection of wild animals and birds from State list to concurrent list.

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Coal mining inside Saleki approved prior to inclusion as SBWL members, claim NGOs

GUWAHATI, May 28 - The role of representatives of NGOs engaged in environment conservation � who are also members of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) � has been unsatisfactory in the case of the approval granted to coal mining in the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest (PRF).

Some such NGO members are now trying to project themselves as �clean�, and are arguing that they were made members of the SBWL just two months prior to its ninth meeting, whereas the issue of granting approval to coal mining inside Saleki was taken up much ahead of their inclusion in the SBWL.

They are now claiming that the ninth meeting had nothing to do with the decision. The SBWL�s ninth meeting was being �informed� of the fact that the expert committee, constituted by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) on July 6, 2015, had sat as per the decision of the 7th and 8th meetings. After revisiting the documents and sites, the expert committee had recommended the proposal for coal mining inside Saleki. The ninth meeting of the SBWL had only �minuted� it.

�Since this issue is a continuous one that perhaps started from at least the 7th meeting, already major discussions and decisions were taken at the earlier meetings. Since the expert committee constituted in earlier meetings already recommended the proposal, there was no detailed deliberation during the 9th meeting. And the members of the newly constituted SBWL were not fully aware that the proposal was in fact looking for a post facto permission,� one of these conservationists said.

�However, the new members insisted that the proposed site should be outside the 10-km radius of the eco-sensitive zone, for which it was minuted in the 9th meeting that the Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, who is the Member Secretary of SBWL, shall confirm by sending a senior officer to the site and only if the proposed coal mining site in Saleki PRF is found to be beyond the 10-km radius from Dehing Patkai WLS, then only shall the CWLW forward the proposal to the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) for further consideration,� the conservationist said.

The matter ended for these conservationists here. They did not raise the issue either in the SBWL�s 10th or 11th meetings. At least the minutes of these two meetings have no mention of their raising the issue of verifying the distance of the coal mining site. The 10th meeting discussed the �Diversion proposals of North Eastern Coalfields, Coal India Ltd Tikak extension open cast project (72.00 Ha)� and �Diversion of 98.59 ha in Saleki PRF under Digboi Division for Tikok OCP Coal mining project by North Eastern Coal Fields, Coal India Limited, Assam� as agenda items No.1 and 2.

On the issue of diversion of 98.59 hectares of land of the Saleki PRF of Tikok OCP Coal Mining Project, the minutes of the 10 meeting has it thus, �The physical verification report conducted by CF (Conservator of Forests), EAC (Eastern Assam Circle), Jorhat was discussed in the meeting and as the site was found to be located just on the boundary of the 10-km radius from the Dehing Patkai WLS, it was considered falling within the Eco-Sensitive Zone. After deliberation on the matter, the board recommended the proposal, subject to compliance to a set of mitigation measures as suggested by the Expert Committee (mentioned above).�

The minutes of both the meetings have no mention of the fact that there was any note of dissent from any of the representatives of the conservation bodies in this connection.

The diversion of the 72 hectares of forest land for Tikak Extension Open cast project was recommended by the 9th meeting of the SBWL to the NBWL and the diversion of the 98.59 hectares of forest land was recommended by the SBWL to the NBWL in its 10 meeting.

The 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India in 1976 shifted the subjects of forest and protection of wild animals and birds from State list to concurrent list.

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