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Coal bio-reserve or mineral? Panchayat shoots letter to National Biodiversity Board

BHOPAL: A village panchayat in Chhindwara district has challenged Union environment ministry over its letter to National Biodiversity Board (NBA) wherein it refused to treat coal as a bio-resource.

Iklehra village panchayat and village Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) in the district filed an objection with the central bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) challenging the letter stating that environment ministry has no right to rectify or amend the rules of 
Biological Diversity Act (BDA) more than two years after the Act came into force.

Quoting Biodiversity Act, Ikhlera committee claimed it is well within its rights to levy two% royalty from the subsidiary by way of collecting fees from any person/company collecting a biological resource for commercial use from areas under its jurisdiction.

NGT has posted next hearing of the case for January 15. "Two letters were sent by the ministry. The ministry is trying to mislead NBA and public by quoting the definition of biological diversity, which applies to living organism," claimed Deepesh Joshi, counsel for village panchayat. "Under Section 2(C) of BDA, biological resources are defined as plants, animals and microorganisms. Since coal is formed from plants naturally, it is a bio-resource, he said, adding the coal companies do not even take permission from BMCs before mining, which is mandatory." BMCs are bodies formed at the panchayat or municipality level under BDA. Earlier in May, the village panchayat had filed a petition in NGT, stating that since coal is a bio-resource, Western Coal Fields (WCL) should share part of its revenue. Following which, NGT had issued notices to WCL, 
Coal India Limited, NBA, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and MPSBB to seek clarification on whether coal is a bio-resource or a mineral.

Times of India (29-11-2013)