The coal ministry has confirmed in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) question that the Mahan coal block in Madhya Pradesh will not be auctioned, pursuant to the environment ministry's recommendation that it be kept off limits from mining, Greenpeace India today claimed.
Greenpeace said in a statement that the move comes as another "blow" to Essar Energy, which had hoped to mine the forest to supply coal for its nearby power plant.
''After being termed anti-national by sections of this government, it is refreshing to see them accepting what Greenpeace and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti have been saying for years - this is a fabulous forest, home to endangered species and crucial to the livelihoods of thousands, and that is why it needs protection," said Priya Pillai, a senior Greenpeace campaigner.
It will be recalled that Pillai was offloaded from a flight to London in January on specious grounds; and the Delhi High Court this month blasted the union government for its action. (See: Greenpeace's Pillai vindicated; HC says 'this is a democracy').
Greenpeace in its statement said the Environment Ministry has recommended that only three blocks, Mahan, Marki Mangli II and Namchik-Namphuk be considered off limits for mining out of the 74 blocks in Schedule II and III of the coal ordinance.
"Government documents with Greenpeace show that other forests in the Mahan region have also been identified as very high quality forest," the statement said.
"Even as we celebrate this win for thousands of Indians, we are painfully aware that Mahan is just one of hundreds of coal mines planned in forested India.
"The MoEF's [ministry of environment and forests] current criteria for determining forests closed to mining is clearly inadequate, only serving the interests of mining corporations, ignoring the needs of the communities and wildlife that depend on our forests," Pillai said in the statement.