Korba and Hasdeo Arand are coal-rich regions in Chhattisgarh.The Hasdeo Arand region already has two functional coal blocks, and its people fear that any more coal mining would destroy the forests and life of the people in the area.In case more mining projects are allowed in the Hasdeo region, people fear a fate similar to that of the adjoining Korba district, which has high levels of pollution and displacement issues due to series of mining and thermal power projects.After resistance from the Chhattisgarh government, the central government recently dropped plans to auction coal blocks in the pristine forests of the Hasdeo Arand region. The pristine forests of Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand region can breathe a sigh of relief – at least for now. The five coal blocks in the biodiversity-rich Hasdeo Arand and adjoining region were among the 41 coal blocks recently put up for auction by the Indian government. But after severe resistance from the state government, the decision was recently reversed. It is estimated that about 6,800 hectares of forest have been spared the axe. However, the state government’s resistance to the central government’s move was not isolated and is a result of years of advocacy and sustained campaign to protect it from turning into another Korba. The Korba region is another coal-rich area of Chhattisgarh adjacent to Surguja district (which includes the major part of the Hasdeo Arand region). The all-around impact of coal mining is visible everywhere – from the thick blanket of grey smog covering the city to its many residents who suffer respiratory issues ranging from asthma to lung cancer. Ghatbarra village in Surguja district falls in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand region that has one of the most extensive unfragmented forests in central India and vast coal reserves too. Photo by Vaishnavi Suresh/PEP Collective. Activists feel what is now required is sustained pressure to ensure a higher level of protection to the forests in the Hasdeo Arand region. They believe it can be achieved by getting the tag of a protected area such as a conservation reserve or a wildlife sanctuary and ensuring that the decision not to allow any new coal mine is not reversed by the present state government or next. The Hasdeo Arand region in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district is one of the most extensive unfragmented forests in the Central Indian landscape. Spanning over 170,000 hectares, the forests are home to over 350 species of animals. Segueing through Hasdeo and its adjacent villages is the Hasdeo river – the spine of this rapidly shrinking forest. Despite all its rich biodiversity, these forests aren’t yet part of India’s protected area network (which includes wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and community reserves) that ensure protection against exploitation. Surguja and Korba districts in Chhattisgarh. Map made with Datawrapper.