Hundreds of young and old thronged the venue of public hearing meeting to express their strong opposition to a coal mine proposed by DB Power Limited even as they questioned the authenticity of environment impact assessment (EIA) draft report. The villagers asked the officials of DB Power Limited to allow them to live peacefully, “We are peace loving people but are made to fight against the injustice now. We will not allow our environment to get polluted and never give away our land”. The company is owned by the Dainik Bhaskar group.
The mandatory public hearing was conducted by authorities to seek the consent of the villagers in the region on environment clearance to mine about 91 million tonnes coal reserves of the area.
Sariya coal block in Raigarh district is allotted to DB Power Limited for its captive mining to supply coal to their proposed 1320 MW Thermal Power Plant at Dhabra in Janjgir-Champa district.
The reserves spread out across 1700 acre covering six villages of Taraimar, Bayasi, Medarmar, Dharamjaigarh, Dharam colony and Bayasi colony of Raigarh situated about 330 km east of Raipur. If clearance granted, the company plans to mine two million tonnes of coal per annum.
The villagers objected finding several facts about the area were ‘deliberately’ excluded from the EIA report to seek clearance. “Many villagers don’t understand the content of the EIA draft as it is in English”, grumbled Indu Tethwani, a local community leader.
“We can happily live with elephants, bears and other wild animals found in Dharamjaigarh but not with DB Power company”, thundered Sunita Tirkey, in her sixties.
“Now we are being terrorised by the company. They are behaving like British rulers”, Adhir Majhi, residing in Bengali settlers Bayasi colony. Another elderly woman Bindu Bhoi asked, “Why only the poor forced to get displaced?”
While registering their protest the villagers raised their concerns on pollution, displacement, compensation, employment and even survival once the company begins mining activity in the region.
Fearing strong protest, high security arrangements were made at the venue where the hearing was conducted and video-recorded. “We have deployed around 400 police personnel”, Raigarh superintendent of police Rahul Sharma told Hindustan Times. Anti-DB slogans by the villagers against the company heard throughout while the hearing was underway.
On couple of occasions, the villagers chased away and assaulted persons near the public hearing ground, alleging them to be men hired by DB Power Ltd to support the company. These men were seen circulating ‘consent papers’ seeking the villagers’ favour for the company.
The local administration organises public consultations to ascertain the concerns of people affected by large projects, as per the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) notification 2006.