Coal India, Gov't unfairly snapped up lands for mine expansions — Amnesty

India’s state-owned Coal India Limited, the world’s largest producer of the fossil fuel, allegedly violated human rights by snapping up lands belonging to tribal groups of the country’s Northeastern region, without properly consulting or involving them,  a new report by Amnesty International shows.

According to “When Land Is Lost, Do We Eat Coal?”, Coal India subsidiaries, central and state government authorities in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, failed to ensure meaningful consultation with Adivasi communities on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.

The report, based in part on interviews with 124 affected landowners, authorities and lawyers, also alleges that public consultations conducted in the three mining areas were “seriously flawed.”

Coal India, which produces more than 80% of the country’s coal, plans to increase annual output to about 1 billion tonnes in the next four years.

In addition, pollution control authorities made few attempts to reach out to villagers who were not formally literate, or to explain the impacts of mining, the authors say.

“The government plans to nearly double coal production by 2020, and Coal India wants to produce a billion tonnes of coal every year. Yet both the company and central and state governments don’t seem to care to speak or listen to vulnerable Adivasi communities whose lands are acquired and forests destroyed for coal mining,” Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

“Coal mining is described as being integral to India’s economic progress. But development is hollow without dialogue and respect for human rights,” Patel noted.

The country’s annual coal imports fell by about 5% in April-May to 35.85 million tonnes on increased local production, Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said in a Twitter post last month.

Coal India, which produces more than 80% of the country’s coal, plans to increase annual output to about 1 billion tonnes in the next four years.

India’s overall domestic coal output could climb to 1.5 billion tonnes as New Delhi is developing new shipping routes and adding railroad capacity to transport domestic coal from mining areas to coastal power plants in hopes of further reducing its reliance on foreign coal.

Coal India, Gov't unfairly snapped up lands for mine expansions — Amnesty

Kusmunda open cast mine, as seen from Barkuta village, April 2014. (Image courtesy of Amnesty International India)