By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 27 June 2021: A chance seeing of a program by Dhruv Rathi on YouTube about this proposed diamond project in Buxwaha forest central India (Madhya Pradesh) led us to this story. The movement to protect the environment including forests and water is a global one and is often confronted with development plans that will destroy them with claims of generating employment. The stories from the mighty Amazon in Latin America have been hitting the headlines for years. A similar story now in Madhya Pradesh has resurfaced after dying out has emerged with a vengeance.
In 2011 Australia’s mining giant Rio Tinto stuck diamonds in the Buxwaha forest in Madhya Pradesh, at a place named ‘Bandar’, and the then Congress government-approved Rio Tinto’s plan for diamond mining in the area. The deeply wooded area with massive water and other natural resources including the Panna Tiger reserve came under the lens as environmental groups and local Tribals intensified agitation against the project. One Shehla Masood, according to the Dhruv Rathi program, who was actively protesting the diamond mining was allegedly killed in a mysterious car accident.
In August 2016, Rio Tinto gave up the project and left the place in February 2017, after the state government stumbled to protests and withdrew the approval of the project. In 2019 the Congress government allowed the project again and the Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining & Industries Limited (EMIL) won the project with a 50-year lease.
A story in The Quint (17 June 2021) says, “Buxwaha forest lies in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, about 260 km northeast of the state capital of Bhopal. Amit Bhatnagar, a volunteer with ‘Buxwaha Jungle Bachao Andolan’, said, “The region is still considered backward. Around 7,000 villagers of the 17 tribal villages in the territory depend solely on forest products, like Mahua, Tendu leaves, Chironji, Aamla, etc, for their livelihood. The proposed mine would snatch away their income sources.
Protests against the project have been growing again. The 382.131-hectare patch of the protected Buxwaha forest now proposed to be allotted to the Bunder diamond block is estimated to cut down 2,15,875 trees (The Quora report) and will endanger a rich forest area and a tiger corridor between the Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. Rare flora and fauna destruction are also likely to be the consequence of the projects.
Diamond mining is heavily water-intensive and in this project, reports say, the water requirement of the project is estimated at about 5.9 million cubic meters per day.
When the project was first approved the Congress was in power and now the BJP is in power. Protests once against Rio Tinto have now shifted to against the EMIL. This is one more battle to save nature from ‘development’, does it matter who is in power?