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Tuesday, 17 August 1993
Page: 90

(Question No. 104)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Minister for Development Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs, upon notice, 11 May 1993:

  With reference to the answer to Question on Notice No. 2324 (Senate Hansard, 17 December 1992, p5523) concerning the Piparwar coal mine project in India, if the mine project is subject to the processes of the Indian Government's Environment Protection Act 1986, why did the former Minister for Trade and Overseas Development (Dr Blewett) comment in December 1991 that the project was not covered by that Act because approval had been gained in 1985, before the Act came into operation.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Development Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs has advised me that the answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  Under the Indian Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA) no mining project can commence without an approved Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

  Critics of the Piparwar project commonly claim that because there is no formally cleared EMP for the project it is proceeding illegally. This is not accurate. Mining at Piparwar was sanctioned by the Government of India in 1985, prior to the implementation of the Act, and thus there is no legal requirement for an EMP.

  An EMP for the project was prepared in 1989 prior to the implementation of the project. In November 1991, the Government of India advised that the Environment Department had assessed the EMP against the requirements of the EPA and recommended it for approval pending compliance with the requirements of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

  Approval requires clearance by both the Environment and Forestry Appraisal Committees of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Government of India has clarified that clearance by the Forestry Appraisal Committee is contingent upon provision by Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) and acceptance by the State Forestry Department of compensatory forest land equivalent to the amount of forestry land within the mining lease.

  The Government of India has advised in relation to the forestry provisions currently being applied to the project that mining at Piparwar can proceed on forestry land provided the State Government has received and accepted compensation for pockets of land as they are progressively mined. Thus, in 1991 the construction of a river diversion channel was stopped when the channel reached the boundary of a portion of forest land. Construction did not resume until the Forestry Department had accepted from CCL 13.1 hectares in compensation for an equivalent amount of land to be absorbed by the diversion. Updated advice from the Government of India is that CCL has now found sufficient land to compensate the State Forestry Department in full and that the project now meets the forestry requirements specified in the EPA.

  The Government of India has recently advised that final clearance of the EMP is expected shortly. At the request of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, CCL has been asked to review the status of the project and update the EMP. The updated EMP has now been cleared by the Forestry Appraisal Committee and clearance by the Environmental Appraisal Committee is expected to follow.