A day after halting mining work by Adani Enterprises in Chhattisgarh, the Congress government in the state Wednesday initiated a probe into alleged illegal felling of trees to construct an approach road in the area.
The mining work was stopped after protests by tribals in Dantewada against a contract awarded to Adani Enterprises Ltd to mine iron ore deposits in a hill in the Bailadila range.
The state forest department has initiated a probe into alleged illegal felling of trees to construct an approach road in the area, an official said.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel Tuesday ordered a halt to all pre-mining works at the Deposit-13 site in Bailadila hills amid protest by tribals against iron ore excavation, contract for which was given to Adani Enterprises Ltd last year when the BJP was in power in the state.
On orders of Baghel, the state forest department has set up a three-member committee to probe the alleged illegal deforestation in the area to make away for an approach road to the site in the Kirandul area of Dantewada, the official said.
Tribals in the area have launched an indefinite protest against iron ore excavation in Bailadila, where one of the hills is revered as a deity by them.
They launched the protest under the banner of the Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti since June 7. The hill revered by the tribals is in the Bailadila Iron Ore Mining Area belonging to National Mineral Development Corp (NMDC), a Central PSU.
"On Baghel's direction, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) Rakesh Chaturvedi issued an order to constitute a three-member committee to probe the alleged cutting of trees in the iron ore Deposit-13 site of NMDC," the official said.
The panel will be headed by additional PCCF (land management) Atul Shukla and will have chief conservator of forest, Jagdalpur Circle, and divisional forest officer, Dantewada division, as its members.
The committee will submit its report on deforestation to Chaturvedi and will also ensure that no illegal felling of trees takes place in the area, the official said.
The 10 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) capacity Bailadila iron ore Deposit-13 is being developed by a joint venture company called NCL, formed by NMDC and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation.
The contract for excavation and mine development at the site was awarded to Adani Enterprises and tree-cutting work was underway to build an approach road to the mining site on the hill, the official said.
A delegation led by Bastar Congress MP Dipak Baij Tuesday met the chief minister and complained about illegal felling of trees in the area and also informed him about the ongoing protest by tribals against mining there.
The chief minister has also asked officials to examine claims, made by the delegation, that a "fake" gram sabha was held in 2014, when the BJP was ruling the state, to obtain approval of local residents for the project.
Baghel had assured the delegation that the state government will initiate correspondence with the Centre over the issue and apprise it about local people's sentiments.
V S Prabhakar, Chief Executive Officer of NCL, had earlier said tribals' religious rights will be unaffected due to mining on the hill and they can offer prayers to their deity even after excavation and production starts there.
The protest has disrupted iron ore production in three NDMC mines near Kirandul town, which is around 400 km south of the state capital Raipur.