DEOCHA PACHAMI COAL BLOCK
The West Bengal government’s ambitious Deocha Pachami coal block mining project despite the announcement of a relief and rehabilitation package, saw widespread protests which resulted in the arrests of nine people including economist-activist Prasenjit Bose.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT?
- The State government is planning to start mining at the Deocha Pachami coal block, considered to be the largest coal block in the country with reserves of around 1,198 million tonnes of coal and 1,400 million cubic metres of basalt, spread over an area of 12.31 sq. km, which is around 3,400 acres
- There are around 12 villages in the project area with a population of over 21,000, comprising Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
- However, the ₹35,000 crore Bengal government project is facing protests over land acquisition
- The government owns 1,000 acres, of which 300 acres is forest land, but needs to acquire the rest to begin coal mining.
WHY ARE LOCALS UPSET?
- Villagers represented by the Birbhum Jomi Jeeban Jeevika O Prakiti Bachao Mahasabha (Birbhum Save Land and Environment Protection Organisation)
- Locals, mostly Santhal tribals, have close affinity with the land, with forests and waterways, and rely on it for their needs
- Activists said that instead of engaging with the people on their grievances about the coal mining project, they, together with the tribals, were being harassed and had been arrested under false and serious charges
- Various other organisations have learnt their voice to the protests and spoken out against alleged police atrocities, including the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (which had led the year-long farmers’ stir on the borders of Delhi), the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Bangla Sanskriti Mancha and the Teachers Against the Climate Crisis.
- Experts, environmentalists and activists have raised a host of issues concerning the project and the pitfalls of going ahead with plans for open cast mining of coal at a time when there are calls to cut back on fossil fuel to tackle global warming