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What is Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary’s expansion controversy?

What is Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary’s expansion controversy?

The Chhattisgarh government’s proposal to expand a wildlife sanctuary expansion to provide more living space for flora and fauna within the densely populated protected area has been awaiting completion for more than five years.

The Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, which contains animals such as leopard, sloth bear, bison, sambar, spotted deer, nilgai and chausingha (four-horned antelope), in the Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh, extends over an area of ​​244.66 square kilometres, Barnawapara Sanctuary reflects the natural beauty of Chhattisgarh, which is equivalent to approximately 24,500 hectares of land.

According to the Report of The Probe, the expansion proposal was first proposed by Chhattisgarh’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government back in October 2017. Following the election of a Congress government to power in the state in December 2018, the proposal has had little progress.

“Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most densely populated sanctuaries in the entire country in terms of numbers of wild animals.

The proposal to expand the boundaries of the sanctuary came about because the animal species found within the sanctuary are also present in significant numbers in areas along the periphery.

The areas that had been identified for inclusion within the wildlife sanctuary are those that were repeatedly chosen by wild animals to breed,” said a senior Chhattisgarh forestry department official.

“The huge parcel of forest land was sought to be included within the wildlife sanctuary because it was noted that wild animals frequent certain places for the purpose of breeding. The movement of female species of animals is generally restricted during the breeding season, A senior forestry official said.

The gold mining block, Baghmara, located in the Baloda Bazar district of Chhattisgarh, has estimated reserves of around 2.7 metric tons (MT) of gold and has been leased to London-based billionaire businessman Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Group firm.

The Chhattisgarh BJP government issued a Letter of Intent (LoI) to Vedanta Group in March 2017 in the form of a composite license to explore for and extract gold from Baghmara.

The mining lease covers an area of ​​approximately 474.30 hectares. This includes 414,415 hectares of reserved forests, against which the Vedanta Group has already obtained definitive forest clearance. A reserved forest section measuring 144.60 hectares within this lease area is one of 22 compartments comprising 5,114.87 hectares of land identified by the Chhattisgarh government in October 2017 for inclusion in the wildlife sanctuary.

However, In April 2020, the Congress government issued an instruction for a detailed investigation into the feasibility of allowing gold prospecting operations across the entire forested land measuring 414,415 hectares that is are within the Baghmara lease area of Vedanta.

On July 7, 2020, a team of officials from the Chhattisgarh forestry department paid a visit to some of the reserved forest compartments, including the 144.60-hectare one that is within the Vedanta lease area. Two officials from the Vedanta Group accompanied this team.

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