Need to kill 10,000 sq km of forests and rich lands

Savandurga hillside forest, Bangalore, India

Image via Wikipedia

The six sectors occupied in 2009 about 0.7 million hectares [or 7000 sq km]. This included land leased out to mine coal, bauxite, limestone, and iron ore.

But this might be a gross underestimation because in the past, industry has acquired far more than what is required for power production facilities. Golf courses are not uncommon in industry premises and golf turf consumes 30 liters per square foot of grass.

About 56% of land currently occupied is under mining, the 44% remaining is plant area.

From now up to 2030, an estimated one million hectare of additional land will be required for mines and to setup plants. That is 10,000 square kilometers.

The power sector will take up about 64% of land; the steel sector will need 15%, and the cement sector 10%. Paper, fertilizer, and aluminum sectors will take up the remaining 10%.

Coal, bauxite, iron ore, and limestone will consume about 0.33 million hectares or 3300 square km.

This is equal to land leased to mine these minerals since 1947. That is in the next 20 years we will consume as much land as we have in the last 62 years!

For example, 185,000 hectares of additional land will have to be leased to mine coal, to meet demand by 2030. This is 50,000 hectare more than all coal mine leases granted in the country so far.

Land required to set up manufacturing plants will be double that required for mining (0.67 million hectare).

By 2030, about 0.5 million hectare of additional land will be required to set up power plants of all types. Iron and steel plants will need 70,000 hectares, cement 30,000 hectares, aluminum 29,000, pulp and paper 20,000 hectares, and fertilizer 16,000 hectares.

On the demand for land till 2030, what is the tradeoff between land and the low carbon economy? If we project low carbon growth, land need will be 30 per cent more than business as usual. Of the 1.3 million hectare additional land required in the low carbon scenario till 2030, about 0.3 million will be for mining (0.33 million hectare in business as usual). In low carbon, plants will require 1 million hectare (0.67 million hectare in business as usual).

The major reason land required in low carbon increase is so much is because of enhanced power production capacity from solar energy assumed in low carbon as compared to business as usual.

In low carbon we assume solar power capacity will increase fivefold to 100,000 MW as compared to 20,000 MW in business as usual.

The total additional land required to support growth in the six sectors is about 1-1.3 million hectare. This figure might seem small considering India has 328 million hectare of land. But factor in acquisition and the violation that explodes in people’s lives. Factor in diverting deposit-laden forest area for non-forest use and the impact that has on watersheds, wildlife and people. Factor in the way people fight to retain what they believe is their own and you will know what it means for so much land to be given to industry.

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