It’s ‘coal’d war between the Centre and Chhattisgarh state government, and the latter has found its trump card — elephants. In his Independence Day address, the state’s chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel, announced that his government has planned to revive the proposal of setting up Lemru Elephant Reserve. This move means a complete coal-mining ban over 1,995 square kilometers. As many as seven minor coal deposits were identified in 2007 in the previous plan of the reserve covering around 450 square kilometre of area. But the earlier BJP state government had been accused of putting the proposal on hold in the interest of coal block mining. This, despite approval from the-then UPA central government.
With the revised plan, however, 19 coal deposits will be shut for mining, including a major part of Hasdeo Arand, known for its high quality coal reserves. It’s a big decision by the Baghel government, which is likely to affect annual output of over 5 billion tonne compared to 40 million tonne if the size of reserve would have been 450 square kilometre. Activists and environmentalists have hailed the decision that will reduce elephant-human conflict by providing the tuskers with permanent habitat. As per government reports, the conflict has claimed 65 human lives and led to the death of 14 elephants over the past five years. According to Baghel, this move will “reduce human-elephant conflict and preserve biodiversity”.