Life on coal free land

Life on coal free land

Striking a delicate balance between meeting the country's growing energy demands and maintaining an unwavering commitment towards environmental protection, the coal sector plays a leading role in adopting progressive strategies involving sustainable afforestation and bio-regeneration. Extensive bio-reforestation and afforestation efforts aim to strengthen both carbon sinks and green cover. During the last 10 years, PSUs associated with the coal sector have effectively succeeded in bringing about 18,849 hectares of land under green cover by planting 42.3 million saplings. This pioneering initiative underlines the coal sector's unwavering commitment to responsible and environmentally sustainable coal mining practices.

Various coal mining projects, which require mandatory environment and forestry clearance, face a significant hurdle in identifying compensatory afforestation (CA) land for forest clearance (FC). To streamline and expedite the FC approval process, reduce CA costs, earn carbon credits and promote afforestation to meet national targets, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has approved on 24.01.2023 Guidelines for Compensatory Afforestation (ACA) have been issued. This proactive afforestation initiative encourages private landowners and government institutions to afforestation of fallow lands, contributing to an increase in trees outside forests (TOF).

In line with the ACA guidelines, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) associated with the coal sector have identified approximately 3075 hectares of deforested non-forest land suitable for ACA. Regarding proper notification of deforested non-forest coal-free land as ACA land bank by Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) engaged in coal sector to expedite forest clearance requiring conversion of forest land for future coal mines. Proposals have been submitted to the forest departments of the states.

The Bishrampur Opencast Project by South Eastern Coalfields Limited in Surajpur district of Chhattisgarh is a commendable example of adherence to Accredited Compensatory Afforestation (ACA) guidelines. This project was started in 1959-60. The project has become a benchmark for sustainable mining and responsible land reclamation. Marking the end of operations in July 2018 due to resource depletion, the project led to a carefully planned closure of the final working mine within the lease spanning 1472 hectares. The process of land reclamation, which included both physical/technical and biological reclamation methods, was dedicated to restoring areas that had been mined. Within the lease, approximately 319 hectares of land has been designated as converted forest land to be regenerated. Additionally, about 40 hectares of land has been allotted for the solar plant, while 906.82 hectares of land has been successfully delineated as organically reclaimed non-forest land.

Pavita Jones