hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of Greenpeace International using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:37:31 Apr 04, 2020, and is part of the Greenpeace Archive collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information

Forested blocks will face clearance delays, tribal opposition, legal challenges: Greenpeace cautions coal bidders

Press release - August 7, 2015
At least 39 of 101 coal blocks up for auction in 2015 are located in ecologically critical areas, says study; urges government to protect forests from mining.

New Delhi | August 7, 2015As mining bigwigs get ready for the auction of another set of coal blocks between 11 and 17 August 2015, a Greenpeace Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis cautions that out of the 101 blocks earmarked for auctioned by the Coal Ministry this year, at least 39 are in ecologically critical areas [1], covering a total forest area of more than 10,500 hectares. These blocks are likely to face significant delays in securing clearances, apart from the likelihood of legal challenges and opposition from affected communities.

Cautioning the mining companies, Greenpeace activist, Nandikesh Sivalingam said, “By continuing to put good quality forests up for mining, the government is being short-sighted. This will harm the environment, and will also mean higher risks for project developers, investors and shareholders as it will lead to more conflict, legal challenges and community opposition, as we saw in the case of the Mahan coal block in Singrauli. The government needs to keep important forest areas off limits to mining through a transparent, consultative and rigorous inviolate policy."

These blocks are spread in eight different states including: Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal. About 35 blocks are in tiger, leopard or elephant habitat and 20 are within 10 kilometres of a Protected Area or identified wildlife corridor.

“The coal scam and the Supreme Court verdict presented a golden opportunity to make amends. A transparent, scientifically rigorous inviolate forest policy was the right thing to do, in order to rearrange coal mining in such a way that it had less impact on forests, tribal communities and wildlife. At the same time, this would have ensured a greater certainty for investors and project developers, but the Ministry of Environment has showed it is unable - or unwilling - to protect some of India’s last remaining forests from mining,” said Sivalingam.

The forest area slated to be “inviolate” or closed to mining has shrunk alarmingly in the past six years [2], since the proposal was first made with the government constituting successive committees to look into the classification of the forest areas as ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ or ‘violate’ and ‘inviolate’. Under pressure from the Coal Ministry and the coal mining industry, the number of No-Go areas has been reduced from the original 222 to a mere 35. This means the total extent of inviolate area has come down to only 94,421ha, which is only 7.86% of the total area which has been earmarked for mining (i.e. 1,200,576 ha), according to an RTI response.[3]   

Greenpeace and several other NGOs have criticised the current inviolate policy for not being transparent or scientifically rigorous, and ignoring the voices of communities, civil society and wildlife scientists.

Greenpeace India urges the government to prioritize a free and fair identification of inviolate forest areas, ensuring them permanent protection from mining before any further auctions. Coal blocks should only be auctioned after resolving pending legal challenges and complaints regarding the environment and people’s rights. Potential bidders are advised to stay away from at least these 39 identified blocks and to assess independently the forest, livelihoods and wildlife issues of the blocks they intend to bid on.


Key Findings

  • 46 coal blocks were analysed by Greenpeace, 39 of which fall in ecologically critical areas. All these blocks are likely to face clearance delays
  • Inviolate areas have been drastically reduced from 35 percent to a mere 8 percent i.e 94,421ha of total area of coal block i.e. 1.2 million ha
  • Latest MoEF documents reveal that there are 35 inviolate coal blocks

Notes to the Editor:

[1] Coal Auction Report  

[2] Inviolate Forests - Briefing paper

[3] RTI response from MoEF - inviolate list


For further details:


Anindita Datta Choudhury: + 91-9871515804; 

Nandikesh Sivalingam: +91-9686450785;