As many as seven minor coal deposits were identified in the previous plan of the Lemru Elephant Reserve covering some 450 square kilomters of area. The previous BJP government has been charged with putting the proposal on hold in the interest of coal blocks and mining.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel recently announced a plan to revive the proposal and set up Lemru Elephant Reserve. “The plan is in the initial stage and we are working out the modalities,” a senior forest official said. Once the plan is finalised, it would be known whether the area would remain the same as per the old plan or new pockets would be included, he added.
If the government were to go with the old plan, the elephant reserve would affect coal output of about 40 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). The coal blocks are located in the pocket stretching between Raigarh, Korba and Sarguja districts.
Green activists, however, said the proposed elephant reserve could come up in some 2,000 sq km of area covering a major part of Hasdeo-Arand coalfield. The coalfield in one of the largest forest areas left intact in central India and covers a total area of 1,878 sq km, of which 1,502 sq km has forest cover.
Forest officials did not comment on whether Hasdeo-Arand area would also be part of the elephant reserve, stating that the plan had not taken final shape. If the coalfield is included, it will severely impact mining in Chhattisgarh.
The coalfield has total estimated reserves of 5.179 billion tonnes, of which 1.369 billion tonnes have been proven to date. In all, over 30 coal blocks have been mapped and identified and 16 allocated to various public sector and private players.