By Ignatius Joseph:
Continuing his quest to save forests from coal mining, Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh takes us to Singrauli, a district located on the border of Eastern Madhya Pradesh and Southern Uttar Pradesh, better known as the energy capital of India. He finds that about 14,450 megawatts of electricity is generated here which is about 12 percent of India’s total energy production from coal.
But of course, the energy capital had to bleed to earn this reputation. Not so long ago Singrauli was covered with dense, thriving forests. So wild were these jungles that Kings of the Rewa state, who ruled the area till 1947, used these forests as an open air prison since escape from here was unthinkable. Today a different sort of prison exists here. Forest communities who were tending their land and collecting honey, herbs and other produce from the forest have been thrown out of their homes by powerful coal companies. Thousands of hectares of forest that wildlife and forest dwellers depend on for their survival have been lost to get to the coal.
Brikesh explains the process of coal mining and electricity generation and the impact this has on the environment. After the forests have been cleared and the coal dug- out, it is crushed and sent to the thermal power plants nearby where it is burnt to boil water to produce steam. The steam in turn runs a turbine which produces the electricity. From these power plants the electricity is sent to the central grid from where it is finally distributed to the entire country.
Burning coal pollutes the environment as carbon dioxide and other toxic gases are released into the atmosphere. The ash that is left behind, tainted with mercury, other heavy metals and sometimes radioactive elements, is mixed with water and just dumped in available open spaces forming huge polluted ash ponds. Pollution from these ponds leaches into the soil and ends up affecting the ground water and other fresh water sources as well. The enormous quantities of water required by the thermal power plants results in water scarcity and conflicts with other uses, such as agriculture.
The deforestation and the displacement of forest dependent communities and wildlife for coal have a devastating effect on our natural resources. This is the price we are paying for coal-fired thermal plants and electricity generation in our country. Watch out for the next episode where Brikesh visits the Mahan forests to see firsthand the destruction caused to forests and forest dwellers all for the sake of coal.
To help Brikesh on his quest to save our forests visit junglistan.org/home.Â Watch him in action: