The state government, in a letter to the inspector general (forest & wildlife) on July 26, conveyed its decision in this regard. The government has also requested the IG to drop the proposal for expansion of the territories of the two existing elephant reserves.
The government's decision appears to be greatly influenced by the companies that have signed memoranda of understandings (MoUs) for setting up mineral based industries in the state. The decision will benefit corporate houses like Posco, Arcelor Mittal, Vedanta Resources, Tatas, Hindalco and Jindals who are planning iron ore and bauxite mining in areas where the proposed elephant reserves were to come up.
Only an year back, the state government had submitted proposals for creation of the two elephant reserves-Baitarani and South Orissa. The directorate had cleared the proposals and the state government was supposed to notify the new areas as reserves.
The proposed Baitarani reserve includes mineral rich districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh, Angul and Dehnkanal. While Keonjhar and Sundergarh have huge deposits of iron ore, Angul is known for its coal reserves.
Posco, Arcelor Mittal, Jindal and Vedanta Resources are eying iron ore reserves of Khandadhar, Thakurani, Malangtoli, Mankadnacha and Gandhamardan in Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts.
Besides, several companies, including the 13 independent power producers (IPP), are looking for coal linkage from Angul district. Out of the four districts coming under the proposed South Orissa reserve, Rayagada and Kalahandi have bauxite mines.
Vedanta and Hindalco are setting up alumina projects linking bauxite reserves of Langigarh and Baphlimali located in these two districts. "It would have been difficult for corporate houses to get forest and environment clearance for their industrial and mining activities if the new elephant reserves were notified", said a senior government official.