This article is written by Saurav Narayan pursuing LLM from Central University of Punjab. The article has been edited by Smriti Katiyar (Associate, LawSikho).
“The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand it over to them at least as it was handed over to us”– Mahatma Gandhi.
This is a tale that began 15-20 years ago. The Buxwaha forest is located around 650 kilometres from Delhi, in the district of Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh. According to the 2011 census, the entire population is roughly 10,000 people. This forest has existed for a long time. Madhya Pradesh is one of the most important states in terms of FRA implementation, having the greatest tribal population in the country according to the 2011 Census, as well as a strong reliance on forests.
At the time of this story, more than 215,000 trees in Madhya Pradesh’s Buxwaha Jungle were at risk of being chopped down for the purpose of a diamond mine. The government authorised diamond mining in this forest, which meant that not only would the trees be chopped down, but numerous plant and animal species would also be endangered.
More than 7,000 indigenous people’s livelihoods could be jeopardised. The fact that the area is prone to drought was possibly the most serious concern. There is a significant lack of water in that area. Diamond mining also posed a major threat, being a water-intensive endeavour.
The government, on the other hand, said that there was nothing to be concerned about. They were going to plant more trees than they planned on chopping down. Increased employment would contribute to economic growth.
Let’s take a closer look at the timeline’s specifics.
The story begins in January 2004, when RioTinto, an Anglo-Australian corporation, found a significant diamond resource beneath Buxwaha. Due to the supposed abundance of monkeys around the location, the diamond deposit had been given the name ‘Bunder’. (Monkey).
The following events occurred in this chronology.
This corporation signed a State Support Agreement with the Government of Madhya Pradesh in October 2010. It was determined that the government would receive a 10% mining royalty from this company’s diamond sales. This information was to be retrieved from this website. RioTinto was supposed to receive 90% of the profits. This region was expected to yield a total of 27.5 million carats of diamonds. At the time of the agreement, the overall area measured 971 hectares. They had also been given permission to clear 954 hectares. More than 500,000 trees were projected to be chopped down at the time.
The area is close to the Panna Tiger Reserve. The Ken River is the lifeblood of the Panna Tiger Reserve. It is home to a large number of alligators. An Alligator Sanctuary also exists here, called Ken Gharial. Aside from these, the Buxwaha forest has a wildlife reserve, with abundant fauna and natural beauty. Because of certain corporate and governmental riches, our country would have lost these natural treasures. However, thankfully, this did not happen. Shehla Masood, an environmental campaigner, deserves credit for this.
It also serves as a tiger corridor between Panna Tiger Reserve and another wildlife refuge. A comparable report was produced by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The government eventually refused the mining permit after this report.
This region was declared an Inviolate Category by a Forest Advisory Committee in March 2016 on account of its being ‘a forest rich area’
As a result, the corporation made a last-ditch effort to keep mining rights for at least a portion of the territory and a fresh plan was proposed seeking control over 76 hectares.
However, the Forest Advisory Committee claims that mining would represent a significant threat to the high-quality forest area, even with the reduced land. In 2016, Rio Tinto eventually gave up.
In 2018 the government again said that they will revive this project. The government held an auction. The project’s overall capital cost was anticipated to be Rs. 25 billion with the potential to generate Rs. 550 billion. Several businesses submitted proposals-National Mineral Development Corporation, Aditya Birla Group, Adani Group, Vedanta Group, Essel Mining and Industries Limited, and Aditya Birla Group.
The winning bidder was Aditya Birla’s group and was awarded a 50-year lease on 364 hectares of forest property where they may dig for diamonds. The Aditya Birla Group will get about 58% of the earnings from diamond mining under this new arrangement. And the state government will get 42% of the money.
Try to grasp the whole picture of what’s going on. Who owns a country’s forests, rivers, hills, and mountains? Each and every one of the country’s citizens. We all breathe forest air. As a result, every citizen should have a claim to the forest.
NGT(National Green Tribunal) and High Court of Madhya Pradesh Order
The Bhopal bench of the National Green Tribunal had put a stop to the cutting of trees in Buxwaha for diamond mining. The Tribunal instructed the Madhya Pradesh government not to remove even a single tree without getting permission from the forest department in an interim ruling issued on Thursday, July 1.
Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, a judicial member, and expert member Kumar Verma made up the bench. The environment watchdog also directed the case’s petitioners to send a copy of the plea and pertinent papers to the respondents—the Centre, state government, forest department, and private mining enterprise.
“Learned counsel appearing for the applicant argued that if the project in the question of open mining of diamond by way of cutting the lakhs of trees and deforestation is continued, it may adversely affect and cause deforestation, elimination of about 4 lakh trees, and thousands of tribal living in this forest will be pushed into poverty,” the Tribunal said.
The Madhya Pradesh high court ordered that mining in the Buxwaha forest be stopped, and the Central Government, State Government, and Archaeological Survey of India were all asked to respond.
The division bench of chief judge Ravi Vijay Kumar Malimath and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla stated at a hearing on Tuesday that mining activity should not be undertaken without the permission of the High Court.
Bundelkhand’s water crisis would be exacerbated by the Buxwaha diamond mining project
Bolivia is a nation in South America. The Bolivian Government water supply had been previously privatised. When private firms exercised their authority to control water, costs rose, making drinking water expensive for the general public. Bolivia’s Water War erupted as a result of this. People began squabbling over the water.
Bundelkhand’s water crisis would be exacerbated by the Buxwaha diamond mining project.
Do we want India to witness anything similar? The Madhya Pradesh area of Bundelkhand is prone to drought. There is a water shortage in the area. And if diamond mining is carried out there, this would have an impact on the general public’s water supply. Would the people there have access to safe drinking water? Would there be a water war there in the future? In terms of specific figures, it is expected that the mine’s processing facility will require 5.9 million cubic metres of water each year. A cubic metre of water equals 1,000 litres. Every year, 5.9 billion litres of water will be utilised for this
Diamonds can now be manufactured in laboratories. Forests do not need to be chopped down and then mined for diamonds since labs can easily produce diamonds of the same grade.
A diamond, in actuality, is a carbon structure that has been replicated in laboratories. Creating a diamond in a lab is less expensive. According to recent research, manufacturing diamonds in laboratories is less expensive. Some firms have even said that they will no longer mine for diamonds. Instead, diamonds will only be created in laboratories. Because diamonds are comprised of carbon, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be trapped and utilised to make diamonds in laboratories.
Two birds would be killed by a single stone. First, there would be no mining. There would be no need to clear forests. In any case, diamond mining is extremely detrimental to the environment. Energy sources used to operate diamond mines create greenhouse gases. Diesel fuels, electricity, and hydrocarbons used in diamond mining all release harmful carbons into the air. These chemicals cause smog, climate change, and other environmental hazards yet to be discovered. The long-term environmental impact is simply not worth the financial gains a few corporations and countries desire. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Therefore not allowing diamond mining in the region would have a second benefit as the emission of carbon dioxide will be reduced.
As a result, at the conclusion of this paper, I will make the following recommendation to the Aditya Birla Group: Please explore this alternative. The mining of natural diamonds in a pristine forest will do a great deal of damage. Not only will the trees be destroyed, but the water, tiger reserves, and indigenous peoples will also suffer.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: