By Ignatius Joseph:
A new Greenpeace India campaign is gearing up to take on the Indian coal industry, coal ministry and even the Prime Minister. The environmental action group is determined to create awareness about how coal mining in Central India destroys forests, indigenous forest communities, endangered tigers and other wildlife. Of course, it also causes severe environmental damage like air and water pollution and increases carbon emissions. The new website junglistan.org/home created by Greenpeace on 19th July 2012, is asking people to sign a petition which asks the PM to stop coal mining in forest areas, has already got more than 50,000 signatures from web users.
Greenpeace will deliver this petition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in October at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that India is hosting in Hyderabad. Signed by 150 government leaders, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development and conserving bio-diversity. The PM is a guest speaker at the international event and Greenpeace feels that this is the ideal time to address this important issue of protecting our last remaining forests.
A lot of the coal in India is mined in Central India in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra. This same mining belt happens to be India’s largest contiguous tiger landscape and coal fields here are in proximity to at least 10 Tiger Reserves. Proposed coal mining threatens over one million hectares of forest in just 13 of the coalfields in Central India. Vital corridors linking the tiger reserves of Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Achanakmar, Sanjay-Dubri, Palamu, Satkosia and Tadoba-Andhari come under threat. Furthermore, 35 percent of India’s 1,700 tigers live in Central India and we will see a reduction in this number if coal mining continues unabated.
Recently forests in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, got provisional clearance for mining. This sets a dangerous precedent where forests are blindly sacrificed for coal mining. Indigenous communities who live in the forests and depend on it for their livelihood are simply asked to leave. Coal companies sometimes compensate them or offer them jobs at the coal mines but these are meagre offerings when they are losing their homes, livelihood and way of life.
Another side to this issue is corruption. The leaked CAG report in March indicated that coal blocks allocated without auction between 2004 and 2009, when the PM was in charge of the coal ministry, led to undue benefits of Rs 10.67 lakh crore to private and public sector companies. The media called this the mother of all scams in India. The Greenpeace campaign addresses all these issues and even advocates a clean solution. Renewable energy like solar can reduce our dependence on coal mining.
The campaign asks the PM to step in and stop all new coal block allocations and forest clearances for mining until the coal scam is investigated and there is a clear demarcation of areas that shouldn’t be mined. To get more information and sign the petition, visit www.junglistan.org/home.
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