Indian NGO INTACH has been studying the likely impact of the World Bank-supported expansion of coal mining in Bihar on wild tigers. Studies by INTACH and other specialists have concluded that the endangered cat may face a serious loss of territory, due to the disruption of migratory corridors. The Bank did not even mention wildlife corridors in its “Environmental and Social Mitigation Program” documentation, although this project was designed to upgrade Coal India’s ability to carry out mining in an environmentally-responsible fashion. The World Bank also only takes limited responsibility for the 25 mines it is directly funding, refusing to comment on the impact of Coal India’s expansion of as many as 470 other mines. A.N. Kheto, the General Environment Manager of Coal India’s World Bank Division claims, however, that there are no functional corridors as the forests are degraded.
Each coal mine, whether opencast or underground, has an ancillary impact zone extending for a radius of some 15 to 20 km around the mine site. This ancillary impact is frequently more destructive than the mining itself, and on its own can sever a fragile wildlife corridor. The shanty towns that spring up around a new mine also have their own impact, and the hugely increased industrial activity in the region places an unbearable burden on the ecosystem. In the case of underground mining, forests in the vicinity are used for mine supports.
The World Bank has eventually conceded that there might be a problem with wildlife corridors, but has not yet made good its promise to fund a study of the issue.