Following felling of over 40,000 trees in Odisha’s Talabira for a mining project commissioned by Adanis, another attempt to remove trees has been made barely three kilometre away in Patrapalli, in the state’s Jharsuguda district. The villages of the region are inhabited by the Gond and the Munda tribes.
The felling of the trees is currently being thwarted because of the resistance of the locals on the ground.
Speaking to NewsClick, Prafulla Samanta of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) said, “In Patrapalli, people are sitting on a protest day in and out to ensure no trees are cut. Currently, people are not backing off and have surrounded the area to resist any attempts of tree cutting by the authorities.”
For the tribes in the region, this is not just a battle to save the ecosystem or their livelihood, but also for their land claims. He added, “People have been fighting this battle for the last four to five years. The tribals are not just making a case for their livelihood, but are asserting that they will not be displaced again. The community was previously displaced during the construction of the Hirakud dam in 1956.”
The villagers are also fighting a battle for the recognition of their land claims or pattas. The locals have stated that when they were displaced, they were promised rehabilitation and land, which has still not been provided to them.
The villagers had filed community forest claims under the Forest Rights Act (2006), it is still pending. In fact, the villagers had also written to the State Level Monitoring Committee, an FRA-mandated body for grievances, and the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs in 2014, without any luck. Under the provisions of FRA, people cannot be displaced unless their rights recognition process is complete.
The resistance movement is shifting its focus to other crucial questions over the industrial projects in the region, given the prevalence of several thermal plants in the region. More than 40,000 trees were cut in Talabira forest on December 9 and 10 for establishing an open-pit coal mine. The enormous tree felling comes in the backdrop of clearance being provided by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to divert 1,038 hectares of forest land for opencast coal mining projects called Talabira II and III in March 2019. The proposed Talabira II and III blocks are the coal mining project that belong to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), India and are located in the Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts of Odisha. Interestingly, NLC had signed a mine development and operator contract with the Adani Group in 2018.
Also read: Talabira Odisha: Over 40,000 Trees Removed to Pave Way for Adani’s Mine