Only 35 of 793 coal blocks remain inviolate after dilution of policy
The environment ministry has brought down the number of coal blocks to be kept out of bounds for miners from 206 to a mere 35.
This was done by repeatedly weakening the norms and parameters for identifying valuable and irreplaceable forests under the inviolate forest policy.
The policy, introduced during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, was meant to identify rich and valuable forests that would be irreplaceable or provided water security and other invaluable services. Miners were to be kept out of these areas even if coal or other mining ores was found buried under.
The area of the coal blocks that will now remain off-limits to miners has been brought down to a mere 944 sq km, which is 7.86 per cent of the total area of 12,006 sq km encompassing the 793 coal blocks that were repeatedly assessed by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) - the apex government agency for forest mapping - under environment ministry´s watered-down norms.
According to the initial assessment carried out by the UPA government, the total coal block area to be kept out of bounds for miners added up to 3,040 sq km - 47 per cent of the total 6,488 sq km of 602 coal blocks.