Forest advisory body allows mining in Jharkhand elephant reserve

FP

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has recommended diverting over 500 hectares of forest land for an iron ore mining project in the Saranda forest division of Jharkhand, part of the core area of the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve, India's first reserve for elephants.

The FAC is a statutory body that advises the environment ministry on diverting forest land. Its recommendations are not binding.

The Singhbhum reserve, created in 2001, is spread across 13,440 sq km in six forest divisions including Saranda, where Jindal Steel & Power Ltd proposes to mine iron ore. The FAC has recommended the project with conditions that call for protection of flora and fauna, even as it notes "the conflict of interest between conservation of natural resources and the need for economic activity".

"Taking a view purely in the interest of conservation, or on the other hand in the interest of economic activity, will amount to taking an extreme side," says the record of the January 21-22 FAC meeting which took the decision. "The committee felt the need to take a view wherein economic activity may be permitted to the extent possible and at the same time conserve the natural resources and take sufficient effective mitigative measures."

It also expressed concern over the compensatory afforestation proposed in non-forest area by Jindal, as all the land for this has not been identified, and some of it is under Maoist control.

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