New Delhi : Mines are coming up in critical tiger habitat, resulting in fragmentation of large blocks of contiguous forests needed for tigers to roam in, said a report Tuesday, urging that no new mines in tiger areas should be given forest clearance.
Coal mining poses a serious threat to tigers in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur region, a fact finding mission to the area organised by NGO Greenpeace said.
The mission, consisting of wildlife experts and environmental lawyers, warned that Tadoba tiger reserve risks being completely cut off from surrounding forests by mines and dams, and that the ecological impact will be irreversible and cannot be compensated for by afforestation.
The report calls for a fundamental shift in policy towards a scientific landscape approach that is focused on minimising fragmentation of large blocks of contiguous forests instead of the present emphasis on forest density.
“Our rapid assessment of coal mining around the TATR confirmed just how dangerous mining is for landscape/forest connectivity and particularly for far-ranging species like tiger,” said Praveen Bhargav, former member of the National Board for Wildlife.
Bhargav highlighted that the capacity of existing coal mines in the country now is 64 billion tonnes while the current output is just 550 million tonnes. “So, what is the urgency to give clearance for so many new coal mines when we are not using the existing ones to the full?” he asked.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the region has 66 to 74 tigers spread over 3,241 sq km.
“Coal mining is threatening connectivity between forest patches that are important for the long-term survival of this tiger population and with over 2,558 hectares of forest land already diverted for coal mining in Chandrapur district since 2000, if any further mining proposals are permitted, corridors to the north, south and southeast of the reserve will be damaged,” the team observed.
These corridors are used by tigers to move from TATR to other forests in the landscape.
“The Chandrapur experience clearly shows that the clearance process is severely flawed, with mines coming up in critical tiger habitat,” said Rahul Choudhary, member of Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment.