Coal mining to displace 5 lakh in Talcher

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury/Edited by Sandeep Sahu

Bhubaneswar, Sep 21:

Nearly five lakh people stand to be displaced by the massive mining operations lined up for the coal rich Talcher area in the near future.

“As per the Ministry of Coal (2005), a minimum of 1, 70,000 involving 8, 50,000 people are likely to be affected by future coal projects. As per TERI estimates, displacement could be as high as five lakh in the Talcher region alone,” said a draft report titled ‘Equitable sharing of benefits arising from coal mining and power generation among resource-rich States,’ prepared by New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

The draft study said 8,604 families have already been displaced by mining operations of Mahanadi Coalfield Limited in Talcher coalfield and the figure would rise manifold in view of the large scale coal mining operations to be taken up in the days to come.

In a scathing indictment of the implementation of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, the study says; “Our investigations suggest that R&R policies, while in place, are not implemented well. They also do not have the force of law. Many project affected people are not rehabilitated or adequately rehabilitated.”

There have been several impediments in the proper rehabilitation of the tribal population, who have been hit particularly hard by coal mining projects, the report says.

The Planning Commission-supported study finds that many of the losses, apart from displacement and forest diversion, triggered by coal mining and thermal power generation have not been compensated. “The displaced people not only lose their natural livelihood options and safety nets, but they also suffer from significant health problems due to air and water pollution,” the study says.

TERI has estimated externality of coal mining as well as thermal power generation (from coal transportation to combustion).

“The total external cost in coal mining is estimated to be about Rs. 354 per tonne, of which Rs. 235 per tonne is compensated by the developer and the balance Rs. 119 per tonne is not compensated. This is under the scenario when the average compensation to project affected people is Rs. 11.75 per tonne of coal reserves,” TERI says in its preliminary report.

“However, when the best compensation package of Rs. 49.5 per tonne coal reserve is considered, the total external cost of coal mining and coal washing is estimated at Rs. 391 per tonne, of which Rs. 293 per tonne is compensated and Rs. 168 per tonne is not compensated,” it says. Similarly, the total external cost in power generation is estimated at Rs. 0.90 per kWh (kilowatt per hour), of which only 0.15 per kWh is compensated, while remaining Rs. 0.75 per kWh is not compensated.

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