IIT Kanpur signs Mou with District Mineral Foundation Trust to develop water and land restoration plan

Times Now || June 26, 2022

IIT Kanpur signed an MoU with District Mineral Foundation Trust, DMFT to start a water and land restoration plan on June 26, 2022 to help the district of Odisha, Angul. As per the press release, this memorandum of understanding has been signed between IIT Kanpur and DMFT as a large project and will use the institute’s technology expertise in assisting the restoration plan

Recently, IIT Kanpur, one of the prestigious and reputed institutions in the country, is known as a learning centre in engineering, science and several other subjects signed a memorandum of understanding with District Mineral Foundation Trust, DMFT.
Both have come together in order to develop a water and land restoration plan for the Angul district of Odisha which has been affected by mining. As per the press release which was released today on June 26, 2022, this is a project which will use assistance and expertise from the technology field and it will use landscape approach to achieve the goals to restore the plan.

The district, Angul which is in Odisha is known for its wide range of minerals like coal, graphite, China clay and various other precious and semi-precious stones. Due to the rise of mining operations in the district it has affected the biodiversity and water bodies getting harmful. It has even led to drainage issues as mentioned in the press release.
The press release mentioned that the project which is led by Professor Rajiv Sinha, will utilize all the modern technologies to develop solutions for the restoration plan. This project will also develop a comprehensive water platform which will be to observe using IoT sensors and the platform will also help in gathering data.
As per the press release, the water and land restoration plan project will be completed in two years’ time and will cost about 10 crores which will be given by DMFT Angul under Circular Economy initiatives of Angul District and United Nations Environment Program

Modi Govt’s Coal Mining Expansion Spree Keeps Local Communities Away from Decision-making

News Click || Ayaskant Das || June 26, 2022

In the recent past, project proponents have been falling back on a 2017 rule to expand existing coal mines incrementally without consulting local communities.

New Delhi: In a worrying trend that is indicative of the Modi government’s indifference towards local communities affected by industrial development, no public hearings were conducted for as many as six out of the nine coal mining projects that were provided environment clearances for expansion in the first half of 2022. The combined expanded capacity of the six projects is 200% higher than that of the three projects for which public hearings were conducted.

The six projects which were cleared without public hearings account for a capacity addition of 10.70 million tons per annum (MTPA) to the country’s coal mining sector, shows an analysis of data contained on the website of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC). On the other hand, the total expansion in capacity of coal mining projects for which public hearings were conducted is 5.35 MTPA.

“The very concept of awarding prior Environmental Clearances without conducting public hearings is dubious enough even though it is done by properly following rules. The rules followed to procure clearances in this manner do not take into account special provisions available to local communities in areas which, owing to the preponderance of tribal population in them, have been identified as Schedule 5 under the Constitution of India,” said Rebbapragada Ravi of mines, minerals and PEOPLE (mm&P), an alliance of individuals and communities affected by mining.

Coal-mining industries are bypassing the process of public hearings by resorting to a rule introduced by the Modi government in September 2017. The rule – introduced through the MoEF&CC in the form of an office memorandum – allows for an incremental increase in the capacity of coal mining projects, up to a maximum limit of 40%, without necessarily having to conduct public hearings.

In the first six months of 2022, the MoEF&CC provided Environmental Clearance to seven new coal mining projects with a combined capacity of 55.81 MTPA. The Siarmal Opencast Coal Mining Project in Sundergarh district of Odisha – undertaken by the public sector Mahanadi Coalfields Limited – accounts for whopping capacity addition of 50 MTPA. If this large project is discounted from the list of new coal blocks that have been provided environmental clearance for mining, the proportion of capacity addition in terms of expanding existing projects is nearly double that of new projects. Total capacity addition to the country’s coal sector in terms of expansion of existing mines has already touched the figure of 11.35 MTPA so far this year.

As per a study released recently by the New Delhi-headquartered Legal Initiative for Forests & Environment (LIFE), in the past three years spanning the period between 2019 and 2022 at least 18 coal mining expansion projects were cleared without public participation. These include six projects in 2019, five projects in 2020 and seven projects in 2021. These 18 projects accounted for total capacity addition of 39.834 MTPA to the coal sector during 2019-21.

“This issue is of great concern as during 2021, almost 50% of Capacity increase of Expansion projects coming for EC under the provision of clause 7(ii) of EIA Notification, 2006, has been granted EC without any sort of public participation,” states the LIFE report.

The report further highlights that between the years 2019 and 2021, the MoEF&CC provided Environmental Clearances to as many as 38 coal mining projects. These include 11 projects (five new, six expansion) in the year 2019 while 12 projects (three new, nine expansion) were provided Environmental Clearances in 2020. In the year 2021, the ministry provided Environmental Clearances to 16 coal mining projects (four new, 12 expansion).

However, by the first half of 2022, the ministry has already provided 16 Environmental Clearances out of which seven are for new projects while nine are for expansion of already existing projects. Given the pace at which coal blocks are being opened up for mining in gross disregard for climate change and the negative environmental impacts thereof, a section of experts has already begun arguing for totally moving away from fossil-fuel-based energy sources.

“Any new investment in coal mining is not only destroying our biodiversity, ecosystems, forests and livelihoods of forest dwellers but is also adding to stranded assets in the sector in a manner akin to that which has happened in the power generation sector over the past two decades. We already have enough coal mining capacity which is either operational, under development or has already been granted Environmental Clearances. Future growth in energy demand will and should be fulfilled by renewable energy sources. There is no need for giving new clearances to ecologically destructive projects like coal mining,” said Sunil Dahiya of the independent research organization Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

However, coal-based energy sources continue to account for nearly 50.7% of the total installed power generation capacity of the country while the capacity of installed renewable energy sources lags behind at less than 40%. In times of extraordinary increase in demand for electricity consumption, like the one witnessed between March and June this year when prices of imported coal simultaneously sky-rocketed, the government had to naturally fall back on increasing production and transportation of domestic coal. Environmental Clearances for all new seven new coal mining projects were also provided during this period, that is, between March and June.

Nevertheless, barring local communities from having their say vis-à-vis large coal mining projects is a practice that has been followed by governments cutting across party lines and ideologies. The practice, apparently perceived as beneficial for the corporate sector, was put in place by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in December 2012 when, the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, as it was called under the UPA government, exempted public hearings for coal mining projects seeking to expand 25% of the production capacity. This policy which was also issued through an Office Memorandum permitted only a “one-time expansion” with a ceiling of 2 MTPA if the extracted coal was to be transported by road and a ceiling of 5 MTPA if it was to be transported by the railway network. Just ahead of the general elections of 2014, the UPA government extended the provision of exemption from the public hearings for one-time expansion of coal mines with a capacity of up to 8 MTPA to 50% or 1 MTPA, whichever was higher. The extension was provided through an Office Memorandum that was issued in January 2014 by the environment ministry.

After BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was elected to power, the MoEF&CC issued another Office Memorandum on May 30, 2014, extending the provisions of the notification issued in January 2014 to those coal mines as well that had already expanded their production capacity as a one-time measure following the notification of December 2012. The NDA government issued another office memorandum in July 2014 empowering the MoEF&CC’s Expert Appraisal Committee, a panel that conducts appraisals of industries likely to impact the environment, to decide on exempting those coal mining projects, where the capacity exceeded 16 MTPA, from public hearings to a ceiling of up to 5 MTPA. This was applicable in cases where extracted minerals were not to be transported by road.

The practice of easing procurement of Environmental Clearances for mining activities by issuing amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 through mere Office Memoranda was flagged by the National Green Tribunal while delivering its verdict in a case in September 2015.

“ … the [EIA] Notification mandates the requirement of “prior Environmental Clearance” without exception. However the entire mandate of prior Environmental Clearance has not only been diluted but completely rendered infructuous or ineffective by issuance of these impugned Office Memoranda. Therefore, the Office Memoranda stated to “guidelines”, are potently destructive of the Notification of 2006,” the tribunal had stated in the judgement issued on 7 July 2015.

Nevertheless, since the issuing of this judgement, the Modi government has not limited exemptions for public hearings to the coal mining sector alone. The exemption has been extended to the mining of other minerals including iron, manganese, bauxite and limestone. On 20 October 2021, the Modi government exempted five-star rated mining firms extracting iron, manganese, bauxite and limestone from public hearings while expanding production capacity by as much as 20 per cent. This exemption, which was again issued through an Office Memorandum, holds “written submissions” from affected communities and individuals as measures adequate enough in so far as public consultations are concerned.

Name of the ProjectLocationProject ProponentCapacity of New Projects granted EC (MTPA)Capacity Increase of Projects granted EC for Expansion (MTPA)Capacity increase of Projects granted Expansion under Sep 2017 OM (MTPA)
Kathara Opencast Coal MineBlock Bermo, District Bokaro (Jharkhand)Central Coalfields Limited1.9  
Bharkunda OCPTehsil Patratu, District Ramgarh (Jharkhand)Central Coalfields Limited2.05  
Jamadoba Underground Coal MineTehsil Jharia, District Dhanbad (Jharkhand)Tata Steel Limited0.34  
Brahampuri Coal Mine ProjectTehsil Parasia, District Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh)Birla Corporation Limited0.36  
Chhal Opencast coal miningTehsil Dharamjaigarh, District Raigarh (Chhattisgarh)South Eastern Coalfields Limited 2.5 
Bikram Opencast cum Underground Coal MineTehsil Burhar, District Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh)Birla Corporation Limited0.36  
Vakilpalli Mine (VKP) Underground Coal Mining ProjectMandal Kamanpur, District Peddapalli (Telangana)Singareni Collieries Company Limited0.35  
Siarmal Opencast coal mining projectDistrict Sundargarh (Odisha)Mahanadi Coalfields Limited50  
Jawahar Khani– 5Mandal Yellandu, District Bhadradri Kothagudem (Telangana)Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) 1 
Makardhokra- I OC mine (Phase-I)Tehsil Umrer, District Nagpur (Maharashtra)Western Coalfields Limited  1.4
Amadand Opencast Coal MineTehsil Kotma, Annuppur (Madhya Pradesh)South Eastern Coalfield Limited 1.85 
Garjanbahal OC mineTehsil Hemgir, District Sundargarh (Odisha)Mahanadi Coalfields Limited  2.6
Kulda Opencast Coal Mine ProjectTehsil: Hemgir, District Sundargarh (Odisha)Mahanadi Coalfields Limited  2.8
Manuguru Opencast coal mining ProjectManuguru Mandal, Bhadradi Kothgudem District, TelanganaSingareni Collieries Company Limited  0.30
Parsa East and Kanta Basan (PEKB) Opencast Coal MineTehsil Ambikapur, District Sarguja (Chhattisgarh)Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd  3
North Urimari OCPTehsil Barkagaon, District Hazaribagh (Jharkhand)Central Coalfield Limited  0.60
   55.815.3510.7

Odisha: SAIL mining expansion public hearing concludes amid pollution fears

The New Indian Express | June 24, 2022
The public hearing was organised by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and Sundargarh administration at Ispat high school playground in Koida’s Tensa village.

ROURKELA: The public hearing for environmental clearance against mining expansion proposal of the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) concluded in Sundargarh’s Koida block on Wednesday amid opposition by an environmental group over soil and river water pollution fears.

The public hearing was organised by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and Sundargarh administration at Ispat high school playground in Koida’s Tensa village. The meet, which lasted around five hours, was presided over by Sundargarh ADM RN Sahu. Of the at least 57 representations received during the hearing, most supported the expansion proposal.

However on Tuesday, Lokshakti Abhiyan president and environment activist Prafulla Samantara sent an objection letter to the OSPCB member secretary over the public hearing. Samantara alleged that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on mining of 750 million tonne of iron ore over 40 years in Barsuan, Taldihi and Kalta mines of SAIL in Koida was not properly and scientifically prepared. He claimed that the report lacked data and studies on pollution and loss of green cover besides impact on human health, local fauna and flora and the rich bodiversity of nearby Khandadhar waterfall.

As per the report, water will be consumed from Kuradih Nullah and Najkura Nullah which would result in depletion of water level of Karo river and ultimately Brahmani river, Samantara alleged and claimed that no gram sabha approval was taken for diversion of huge forest area in violation of the PESA Act while provisions of the Forest Rights Act were also flouted.

Sources said during the public hearing, a supporter of PESA movement in the tribal-dominated district entered the venue and claimed violation of PESA Act in the proposed expansion. SAIL has proposed expansion of iron ore production from 8.05 million tonne per annum (MTPA) to 16 MTPA along with handling of topsoil/overburden/inter-burden of 3.92 MTPA and sub-grade dumps/tailings of 2 MTPA requiring total excavation of 22 MTPA.

Further, SAIL proposes to install dry processing plants of 7 MTPA and 4 MTPA for Taldihi and Kalta iron mines respectively, expansion of the existing 3.5 MTPA beneficiation plant to 4 MTPA along with adequate loading and siding infrastructure in the amalgamated mine lease area of 2,558.85 hectare (ha) of the 2,564.323 ha at Tantra and Bahamba villages besides Toda reserve forest. SAIL sources claimed that forest clearance for 2,419.871 ha and 138.710 ha of non-forest area of its 2,564.323 ha mining lease area has already been obtained.

Skill Centres: Welfare board set to divert workers’ fund

The Tribune | June 23, 2022

The Punjab Building and Other Construction Workers’ (BOCW) Welfare Board is once again planning to divert labour funds for construction of four skill development centres in the state.

Earlier, the Legal Department and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had red-flagged the move. The work at these centres had to be stopped in December 2021. The legal opinion was sought by the Labour Welfare Board after The Tribune had raised the issue of misuse of Labour Cess (meant only for welfare of the construction workers).

Not true, claims official

We will not touch welfare funds. The Central Government has sought a report from us, following which we have asked for a status report from the Punjab Police Housing Corporation as they had built the skill development centres. —SS Gurjar, principal secretary, labour department

However, the Labour Department has now written to the Punjab Police Housing Corporation’s managing director and sought a detail report to complete the remaining work of skill centres. The corporation had been given the contract to construct the skill development centres.

The CAG report tabled in 2020 in the Vidhan Sabha had discovered that Rs 56.78 crore of welfares schemes, which violated Section 22 of the BOCC Act 1996, was spent on these development centres.

When questioned about restarting the work, SS Gurjar, Principal Secretary, Labour Department, said, “We will not touch welfare funds. The Central Government has sought a report from us, following which we have asked for a status report from the Punjab Police Housing Corporation as they had built the skill development centres.”

Vijay Walia, labour rights activist, said, “Instead of recovering Labour Welfare Fund, which was spent on the skill development centres, the Labour Board is shamelessly planning to spend more funds. CM Bhagwant Mann should order a Vigilance probe.”

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