The Buxwaha Project

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The tradeoff between life and vanity.

• Panna district in Madhya Pradesh is already world-famous as a diamond mine. But what makes the Buxwaha forests of Chhatarpur so special is the promise that approximately 342 million carats of diamond is present, untouched, under the trees. The quantity being more than fifteen times the treasure of diamonds in Panna makes it a hundred times more desirable. Preparations are underway to destroy 382.131 hectares of this forest.

• February 2014, a public hearing was held in Kasera village in Chhatarpur district. Below the umbrella of Environmental Assessment Policy, local district administration, Pollution Control Board, District Magistrate, Australian mining company Rio Tinto and villagers were assembled. The issue under discussion was the upcoming Bunder Diamond Project.

• The Buxwaha forest’s natural resources provide for the livelihood of 5,000 tribal people for at least three to four months of the year. The project faced vehement opposition at that time, on grounds of damage to the environment, the expulsion of tribal who have lived there for many generations, and the threat to their livelihood.

• Officials from the administration and Rio Tinto Mining Company, who attended the public hearing, tried convincing the court and the locals arguing that the project would employ 400 people. The report of the company clearly stated that there was a little to minimum impact of the project on the ecosystem of the area.

• The tribals insisted that the project was against the Environmental Assessment Policy. Friction from the tribals and environment concerning organisations slowed down the project. But eventually the pressurised carbon won over the purifiers of its dioxide. In 2019, the Madhya Pradesh government issued a tender to auction the forest shortly after the assessment report was changed.

• After facing criticism from local movements and battling series of legal cases in the court, Rio Tinto withdrew from the project, a dreamed venture of which it remained the frontrunner from 2010. Now Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining and Industries Limited have won the tender. The Madhya Pradesh government has leased 62.64 hectares of treasured diamond land of the forest to Birla Company for the next fifty years.

• And from 2019, started the devastating endeavours to trample the forest and human rights of the tribals to obtain the buried diamond. The land needs to be excavated or mined deep to get the diamond in Buxwaha. But the trees stand tall on the very land that is destined to be mined. To carry out this excavation, a treasure trove of natural resources of the forest, including Teak, Ken, Behda, Banyan, Jamun, Tendu, Arjuna, and other medicinal trees that total up to 2,15,875 will have to be cut down.

• Now when this Bunder diamond project is on the threshold of becoming a reality, it signals to cause heavy damage to the environment and destroy the livelihood of the tribal people who depend on forest and its products. Their day to day problems to survive will be aggravated. The local tribal people had protested in large numbers saying “We do not want this Bunder Diamond project.” But time and again this nation has seen tribals being relocated for far lesser reasons.

• It begs the question – what would anyone make of the collective consciousness of a civilisation where pretty little shiny gems are assigned greater value over the breath of existence. A diamond maybe forever but the creatures who plan to cherish this tagline are constrained by the byproduct of trees.

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