Diamond mining in India dates back to ancient times. In the past, India was the only source of nearly all the world’s known diamonds, until the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1896. India has not been a major diamond-producing country since the 1900s, but diamond mining continues. But don’t we all know what is the price we have to pay for in order to make a mine?

Not recently have the forests of Buxwaha been in news for the wrong reasons. The diamond mine project, which is now with Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining & Industries Limited (EMIL), is once again facing dark clouds due to protests over ecological concerns, as it could result in the felling of over 2 lakh trees. Yes, this is the rate of a diamond mine currently!

The 55,000-crore rupees mining project spans over 300 hectares in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district, in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region. The block is estimated to have 34 million carats of rough diamonds. The existing diamond mine, National Mineral Development Corporation’s (NMDC) is about 175 kilometres from Bunder.

The proposed Bunder diamond block in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh has been in the news for the wrong reasons over the years. The forests of Buxwaha, located near the site, are home to tigers, leopards, Indian foxes, sloth bears and other wildlife. The area is also rich in minor forest produce such as Tendu leaves and Mahua. Over 200,000 trees are expected to be cut in the Buxwaha forest for the diamond project. Environmentalists fear that the mining project would result in loss of biodiversity as well as air and water pollution.

The Forest clearance report shows that the project would cost over 200,000 trees in the forest region and also use a lot of water. We are against the environmental destruction in our area, which is already a water distress area,” said Sankalp Jain, a local youth who is associated with one of the groups running social media campaigns such as ‘save Buxwaha forest’ and ‘India stands with Buxwaha forest’ last month.

Credits: Mongababy

 It is to be noted that the project, once operational, has the potential to become one of the largest diamond mines in the Asian region. The company targets the execution of the mining lease by the end of the financial year 2022. But what potential be praiseworthy where Mother Nature gets compromised? In addition to trees and wildlife, the amount of water needed to build the mine will dry out the already water-scarce region of Buxwaha. A dam is to be constructed to divert a seasonal nallah.

Expectedly the project is facing strong opposition, including social media campaigns. Already, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court of India, seeking a stay on the project that had been secured by the Essel Mining & Industries Limited in 2019. In 2006, the Madhya Pradesh government had granted a prospecting licence to Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited, an Australian mining giant, to explore diamond mining in the Buxwaha region in the Chhatarpur district. Opposition was done even then.

Effects of Mine

  • 2,00,000 trees are no joke. The ecosystem is no joke. Imagine the countless number of animal species residing in the woods, the amount of oxygen and water that is retained by these green guys.
  • The residents fear a massive loss of trees, including teak, kenbehda, banyan, jamuntenduarjuna and other medicinal trees as well as the devastation of the natural ecosystem if the project proceeds further.
  • “Despite the claims to provide jobs in mining, I feel the project will eat out the livelihood options in the area.” said a resident of Kasera village- closest village to mining site.
  • The villagers are dependent on minor forest produce and water for farming. The project involves the diversion of a nullah which is a lifeline for the area. It ensures groundwater level and water for wildlife.This project will lead to groundwater depletion as well.
  • Environmental activist Hari Krishna Dwivedi said the “whole Bundelkhand region is facing a water crisis and this forest is essential for the local ecology”.
  • The homes of people are going to be uprooted. What progress is this that uproots tribal people who have lived in the region for hundreds of years and generations, tending to the forests and taking only as much is their wont?