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Mahanadi Basin Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 3
August-October, 2015
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DESTRUCTION DISGUISED AS PROGRESS- Hasdeo Arand, Surguja Chhattisgarh

DESTRUCTION DISGUISED AS PROGRESS- Hasdeo Arand, Surguja Chhattisgarh

A wise man once said that, ‘when the trees are all cut and the rivers run dry, 
only then will man realize that he cannot eat money’.
 
Imagine waking up to tall 100’s of years old trees, smiling back in a shade of green. Imagine taking the path less travelled yet accomplishing all extremes. This is where hope resides and blooms in all its splendour. And then there enters “Progress”, which squashes “hope” beneath its feet, colours it all black and there we lose all the green.  
 
Hasdeo Arand, located in the heart of the Nation with its pristine forest cover is facing its biggest threat called “Development.” These forests are the storehouse of huge coal deposits and have been cocooned for years by its very rich forest cover and biodiversity. High up in these forests, rivers originate from zilch and gradually take its enormous yet exquisite form. They have passed the test of time, have seen civilizations come and go, but maybe not anymore.
 
This sudden escalation of coal requirement to light bulbs in cities has burnt down the lives of the guardians of these forests. The Pando tribes, descendents of the Pandavas of Mahabharata and the Pahari Korva have shrunk in numbers. Unable to keep pace with which this world is moving, they have surrendered themselves unable to fight any further. Well the obvious would happen to anyone whose house has been broken down eight times, whose presence has been forged in the Gram Sabha meetings, whose identity has been crushed, as what really was their sense of pride has been snatched away. They have no option but to partner this blind progress in order to barely survive. But any path, to be or not to be a part of this blind progress, yields the same result i.e, a slow and a well thought out death plan. According to the Census of 2001, the Pando’s were 5700 in number but in the 2011 Census their number reduced to 2900. Their current status is such that they have been adopted by the President. Despite this fact their land has been taken for the mines and they have as of now been rendered homeless.
 
More than 1800 hectares of pristine forests that amounts to 368,217 trees to be precise have been cut down in the name of opening these earlier ‘NO GO’ areas to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited and Adani Group for the extraction of coal under the ambit of Parsa East and Kete Basan Coalfields.
 
Picture 1: Trees marked for cutting in Hasdeo Arand
 

Picture 2: Parsa-Kete Basin mine
 

Picture 3: Parsa-Kete Basin Coal fields
 
These names “Parsa”, “Kete” and “Basan” co-incidentally are the names of the villages that had to be ravaged for the venture. 
 
The fact sheet of the original proposal states that “It does not form part of any National Park, Sanctuary or Biosphere reserve, Tiger reserve, Elephant Corridor.” But in reality this diversion has had a negative impact on the wildlife of the region which includes Schedule I species (under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972) such as the sloth bear and leopard. The presence of elephants is undisputed in the region. Apart from them, the wild boar, fox, jackal, wolf, monkey, rabbit and hyena were also part of the forests. 800 cases of bear human conflicts have been reported in the area but the Environmental Impact Assessment does not mention anything about it. 
 
“Barr Nalla” is one of the nalla that flows through the forests and later on goes and joins the river Hasdeo. On one side of the nalla are the forests that have already been marked by the Forest Department for cutting, and on the other side are the Parsa Kete Basan Mines. The flow of the water in the nalla has been blocked on all sided by a barricade of sand and a narrow diversion has been made for the passage of the nalla water. The water from the coal mines is discharged via pumps into the blocked nalla and further it is slowly discharged into the diversion channel. So in half a kilometre stretch, the colour of the water has changed from greenish blue to black and the flowing water has been rendered stagnant. The consequences show up in the livelihoods of the people. The water from this Barr Nalla was earlier used for agriculture and for drinking and other domestic purposes, but has now been rendered useless. The animals have been left without any choice. 
 
With all this happening around, the question to ask is “Where are we really heading?” Our forests are gone, river is polluted and we still have the nerve to call this destruction “Progress.” We need to understand this very simple fact that whatever we are fighting, it may be corruption, child rights, domestic violence, or anything for that matter, if we do not stop this meddling with nature , then we all will be equally extinct.
This article was written as part of a field work done for an internship with the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India by Prerna Prasad. Prerna is currently pursuing her Master’s in Water Policy and Governance at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She can be reached at, prerna.ford50@yahoo.com
 

Picture 4: Water from the mines being released in the Barra Nalla
 
With all this happening around, the question to ask is “Where are we really heading?” Our forests are gone, river is polluted and we still have the nerve to call this destruction “Progress.” We need to understand this very simple fact that whatever we are fighting, it may be corruption, child rights, domestic violence, or anything for that matter, if we do not stop this meddling with nature , then we all will be equally extinct.
 
This article was written as part of a field work done for an internship with the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India by Prerna Prasad. Prerna is currently pursuing her Master’s in Water Policy and Governance at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She can be reached at, prerna.ford50@yahoo.com
 
 
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