The #SaveBuxwahaForest Movement

Image Source: Scroll.in

Around 400 hectares of forest and 2 lakh trees will soon be felled in the Buxwaha forest of Madhya Pradesh for potentially the biggest diamond mining project in Asia.

The block is estimated to have 34 million carats of rough diamond. The bid for the project was won by Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining & Industries Limited in December 2019.

The project

The project is expected to become one of the largest diamond mines in the Asian region. The firm plans to develop a fully mechanised opencast mine and set up a state-of-the-art processing plant with an investment of about INR 2,500 crore. The water requirement of the project is estimated at about 5.9 million cubic meters per day, which will be fulfilled with the construction of a dam.

The company has targeted the execution of the mining lease by the end of the financial year 2022.

Environmental concerns

1. Drought-prone area

Buxwaha region is already declared semi-critical by the Central Ground Water Authority. It falls under the drought-prone area of Bundelkhand and there have been multiple reports of water scarcity in the region.

2. Loss of livelihood

“The region is still considered backward. Around 7,000 villagers of the 17 tribal villages in the territory depend solely on forest products, like Mahua, Tendu leaves, Chironji, Aamla, etc, for their livelihood. The proposed mine would snatch away their income sources. For example, Mahua earns a family about Rs 40,000 to Rs 1,00,000 in a season,” said Amit Bhatganagar, a volunteer with ‘Buxwaha Jungle Bachao Andolan’.

Opposing reports

An assessment report submitted by Chhattarpur’s Chief Forest Conservator (CFC) on January 2, 2021, claimed that the tribals of the area were ‘NOT DEPENDENT’ on the proposed forest and that ‘no right of tribals has been recognized in the area’.

“We regularly visit the forest and the tribal villages. They (tribals) have shown no resentment about the project. Rather, they are happy that the mines would bring employment opportunities for them,” said Anurag Kumar, District Forest Officer (DFO).

Compensatory afforestation?

“If the project is approved and the mining starts, as per the rules, the company will have to compensate for the forest diversion due to the project by way of afforestation in another area,” Anurag Kumar said.

Compensatory afforestation activities, however, are often too little, too late, and do not help much in the conservation of wildlife in the area.

Ongoing protests

  • Activist Neha Singh filed a PIL with the Supreme Court to stop the project
  • Activist Dr PG Najpande, moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT), pleading to quash the permission granted for the diamond mine
  • A symbolic ‘Chipko Movement’ was held in Buxwaha on the occasion of World Environment Day on June 5
  • Online protests with the hashtag #SaveBuxwahaForest are trending on Twitter

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