KK2 Opencast Project Will Devastate Livelihoods: HRF

Submission made by Human Rights Forum (HRF) before the panel holding public hearing on 13-2-2013 into the proposed Kalyanikhani Opencast Project by the Singareni Collieries Company Limited at Mandamarri in Adilabad district.

The Human Rights Forum is a citizens’ forum established with the objective of working for the protection of the Constitutionally guaranteed/internationally recognised rights of the people, and for the right of the people to propose and strive for new rights not yet recognised in national or international law. The right to a wholesome and dignified life is the touchstone for the rights that may be aspired for. In particular, HRF works for the protection of the right to a clean and safe environment. HRF is a self-financed organisation whose members for the most part are from the professions of teaching, journalism and the law.

We submit that the proposed project does not deserve environmental clearance for a number of reasons which we will elucidate below. HRF believes that there are serious Constitutional, social, environmental and health hazards that the proposed project entails. The process is detrimental to livelihoods and will cause irreversible changes in the ecology of the area.

We have a number of objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environment Management Plan (EIA/EMP) report which will be listed out below. Without prejudice to the first submission we set out the rest of our objections:

Our fundamental submission before the panel is in fact an objection. It concerns the manner in which the public hearing is being held.  We are of the view that unless and until the issues which are relevant for the environmental clearance of the project are made public in a form intelligible and accessible to the people likely to be affected one way or other by the project, this hearing will be a mere formality, even a farce. For that, it is not enough if the requirements of S.O.No. 318(E), Ministry of Environment and Forests, dated 10/4/1997 are formally complied with. Those requirements are merely the minimum necessary to make the hearing transparent and fruitful. What must in fact be done by an applicant establishment would depend upon the circumstances surrounding the project. The S.O No.318(E) that mandates a public hearing is a statutory rule made under the Environment (Protection) Act, and the aim and object of that Act is the point of reference for deciding what are the full requirements for making the public hearing meaningful.   

The detailed draft EIA/EMP report in English running into over 400 pages contains a wealth of details including charts, maps and tables all of which are missing from the Telugu summary which is a mere 17 pages. In fact, the report in English is an extremely complex and technical one that even a well-informed person will find difficult to comprehend and interpret. How can the local people, consisting of largely the peasantry and the marginalised, be expected to understand it in a language alien to them?  The truncated version in Telugu merely gives a bald statement of opinions and views without any of the reasoning or information on which it is based. In fact, the Telugu summary is a mere translation of the executive summary from which an important number of factual details are not even contained. It can hardly be the basis of any informed objections. As very valuable rights including right to health and livelihood will be affected by the project, the local people have a right to have the report translated into Telugu in full with all the charts, maps and tables so that a genuinely informed discussion can take place. This is more particularly necessary in view of the severe hazards posed by opencast coal mining as opposed to underground mining.

Holding a public hearing on the environmental aspects of the project without making a copy of the full Environmental Impact report available in Telugu has thus reduced this hearing to a meaningless exercise.

Even this 17-page report in Telugu has not been made available to the local people. In fact, villagers who will be impacted and displaced by the proposed project have no information at all except occasional reports in the media about the impending project and some pamphlets that the SCCL has distributed here and there in the area. This is no way in which a public hearing ought to be held.

The detailed draft EIA/EMP for the proposed project is of very poor quality and has a number of problems. Assessments trotted out in the report are highly dubious, riddled with a number of inconsistencies and misrepresentations and contain glaring omissions.

The project is located in Mandamarri village which is a part of the area notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution. The project will affect the villagers in Yerraguntapalli and other villages which form part of the notified Scheduled Area. It is a fact that government employees working in this area are drawing the special allowances applicable to the Scheduled Areas.

In view of this, the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (also known as the Forest Rights Act) are applicable.

The proposed project and the notification of the public hearing are therefore in brazen violation of statutory rights and Constitutional safeguards meant for protection of Adivasis and the Vth Schedule region.

PESA lays down unambiguously that no project can be undertaken without prior approval of the Gram Sabhas of the villages which will be either directly or indirectly affected by the project. The Forest Rights Act also mandates prior approval from Gram Sabha and safeguarding of the forest rights of the villagers. Under the Fifth Schedule, prior consultation with the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) is mandatory.

Shockingly, the EIA report is silent on this Constitutional position. It is a matter of grave concern that the District Collector who is expected to be the custodian of the rights of Adivasis should aquiesce in AP Pollution Control Board going ahead with the public hearing on the basis of such an erroneous and misleading report that entails compromising seminal Constitutional provisions. We believe that the District Collector must assert his authority and cancel the public hearing forthwith. Not doing so would amount to a mockery of the environmental clearance regime

We have several other objections to the present proposal:

HRF feels that in principle, conversion of the existing underground mines to open cast extraction and taking up a new open cast mining project will disrupt the lives of the people living in the villages near the mine operations. The mining operations will not only pollute the surroundings but also disrupt the cultural identity of villagers who are resident here since long.

Out of the 699 hectares to be acquired, 546 hectares of land are agricultural, one-third of which is under double-crop cultivation. Diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes will adversely affect the food security of the region.

In an order dated 7-8-2012 in WP No. 24342/2012, Hon’ble AP High Court laid down the following procedure to be followed, in addition to considering other aspects, in all cases of conversion of land-use from agriculture to non-agricultural purposes under AP Agricultural Land (Conversion for Non-Agricultural Purposes) Act, 2006.

“A Revenue Divisional Officer who receives an application for change of land-use, shall take the following aspects into account, before according permission:

  1. The impact on the ayacut of the immediately neighbouring agricultural land, on account of the change in land use, in respect of a piece of land;
  2. the potential or necessity for any further expansion of the inhabited area, of which the land proposed to be put to non-agricultural use is part;
  3. the impact on the resources, such as electricity, water, sanitation, etc., of the local bodies in the neighbourhood; and
  4. the impact on the environment, particularly the water bodies

For this purpose, the Revenue Divisional Office shall ascertain the views of,

  1. the local bodies,
  2. the Assistant Director of Agriculture,
  3. the District Manager, Industries, in case the change in land use is for the purpose of industrial use, and
  4. the concerned official of the A.P. Pollution Control Board. This shall be additional to the requirement under the Rules.

In case any non-agricultural activity is undertaken over any agricultural land, without permission, such activity shall be stopped till specific permission is issued.”

If the District Collector grants land-use change in violation of the above direction of Hon’ble AP High Court, he will be committing contempt of the same. The spirit that underlies the order of the Hon’ble AP High Court is that agricultural lands should not be allowed to be indiscriminately converted for non-agricultural uses.

It is common knowledge that wherever SCCL has undertaken coal mining activity in Adilabad and other districts, there has been widespread degradation of agriculture, forest resources and land in general. The least that SCCL should have done is to commission an independent academic institution to evaluate the adverse impacts of coal mining so that proposals involving projects such as this could be evaluated objectively and the people in the area fully apprised of the implications. SCCL has a conflict of interest in preparing the EIA report as it has certainly underplayed the adverse impacts and exaggerated the benefits, whereas what is required to be analysed is the overall social costs and benefits. As such, the present EIA report is misleading and liable to be rejected. Any public hearing to be held on the basis of such a report is vitiated on that account.

Vital figures related to local area land use and water bodies are not part of the EIA material. This is a glaring omission.

The project area falls in the Rallavagu watershed. Suddalavagu, described as an ephemeral stream, will need to be moved. The project aims to maintain the natural drainage system but it is not clear what this means.

Farmers in this area draw their sustenance principally from streams such as the perennial Rallavagu and Suddalavagu. The project will evidently interfere with these water bodies, as the EIA report refers to diversion of 11 hectares of ‘nala’ land. The area to be acquired includes 28 hectares of ‘river’ land. Diversion of existing streams in the mine lease area to flow through a garland canal to be connected to the original course of Rallavagu later downstream as mentioned in the report is riddled with problems. The report states: “It is assumed that there will be no reduction in the total quantity of flow in the downstream due to the diversion/removal of the existing drainage in the project area.” This is a highly specious claim. The disruption of the natural flow of this important perennial stream, which is a lifeline in the area, has grave implications for the local ecology and livelihood of farmers in the region. Water security will be grossly undermined. The EIA report completely glosses over these facts.

Moreover, the mining operations, irrespective of the safeguards provided, will contaminate these water bodies and affect the livelihoods and the health of the people. The EIA report, prepared by SCCL itself, is conveniently silent on this.

The land to be acquired includes 303 hectares of ‘scrub’ land and 46 hectares of ‘plantation’ land. These lands support the livelihoods of the local people. A majority of the residents of Yerraguntapalle draw sustenance from a vibrant diary industry by supplying milk to about 50,000 people in several villages in the region. This livelihood is possible because grazing land is available in abundance for their cattle, apart from water availability in the Rallavagu which flows nearby. This would be lost if the project materializes. The livelihood of farmers and cattle-rearers would be badly hit if the project materializes. The EIA report makes no mention of these important facts. Had SCCL engaged an independent academic institution to evaluate this aspect, a true picture would have emerged. It is clear that the present report has suppressed these facts.

The socio-economic impact analysis attempted in the EIA report is highly unprofessional and misleading. It has merely referred to the 350 persons who will be physically displaced as a result of land acquisition but not the thousands who will be indirectly displaced as a result of the project. Residents of Yerraguntapalle and Peddannapalle draw water from the perennial Rallavagu. In the former village they even raise a double crop.  The EIA report completely omits these facts. It will be erroneous for the authorities to hold a public hearing based on such a misleading study.

The report on hydrogeology also contains grave errors:

The maximum depth of mining is given as 230m. Aquifer performance test was done on a bore well at a depth of 183m. The area constitutes multi-aquifer system including phreatic i.e shallow aquifer followed by multi layered confined aquifer system. Groundwater data on water level depth, fluctuation are collected from dug wells which are to a maximum depth of 14m. There is no data on deep aquifers.
Open cast mining penetrates the shallow as well as deep aquifers and therefore, groundwater estimation has to be done for the deep aquifer system also. This information is lacking. Impact of mining on groundwater in the present underground mining is said to be nil as indicated by water table fluctuations. That confirms that there is no hydraulic continuity between shallow and deep aquifers. But in open cast mining both the aquifers will be pierced by a common pit.

Regarding groundwater pollution, it is stated that there will be no pollution from coal mining as it is not a chemical industry. But coal beds at deeper depths are under different environment with respect to pH and Eh. Coal is known to contain sulphides. Reducing environment prevails in coal and shale beds. Therefore iron is under ferrous state which is soluble and hence leaches with groundwater when it is drained in mining. Therefore, acid conditions as low as pH 3 and high iron content with a few hundred ppm are common in the mine waters. Heavy metals also will be significant which are effected by the Eh parameter. There are many examples of open cast coal mining in countries polluting ground-waters as well as surface waters. Clearly, there is confusion in evaluating the groundwater conditions and the impact of mining on groundwater. The effect of pollution is also largely ignored in the EIA report.

The mining operations will generate 30 MMT of coal and 365 McuM of overburden. This in itself will degrade the land and pollute the environment, apart from the noise pollution on account of the drilling, blasting and transportation activities. An independent study in respect of the existing mine operations would reveal a true picture of the disruption that such mining would cause.

In view of the above lapses in the EIA for the project including violation of constitutionally mandated provisions, damage to human health, likely loss of livelihood to farmers from destruction of a precious irrigation source and crop yields, HRF strongly opposes giving environmental clearance for the proposed project. We further demand abandonment of this extremely destructive project. The public hearing must be cancelled as the EIA study in its present form is a highly misleading one.

Holding a public hearing in the face of such brazen statutory violations and glaring anomalies will amount to a meaningless exercise. The proposed project entails unacceptable environmental and human livelihood costs.

VS Krishna
HRF State general secretary



VS Krishna
Gazzetted Officers Colony
Ph: 0891-2543817, 09440411899

Related Posts

Scroll to Top