When my colleague told me that I was going to go to the forests to work on a tree house- I gave myself a mental high five. What could be cooler than chilling in a forest for a week? I was to accompany three activists, who had helped get a lot of people to sign the petition online, asking the Prime Minister to protect our forests from coal mining.
So, along with three cyber activists I boarded a train to Chandrapur, one of the few districts in India that meets the National Forest Policy aim of 33% forest cover. However, since 2000, 25 sq. km. of forest has already been diverted for coal mining and at least six coal mines are operational on the edges of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. And now, more coal mines have been allocated.
Armed with a pair of flimsy canvas shoes and a waterproof jacket, I walked down towards the site, passing the Padmapur open cast mine and hearing muffled explosions in the distance (I was startled the first few times to be honest). My excitement began to build up as we got closer to the forests. So much so that I was enjoying walking through ankle deep muck, ignoring the fact that my shoes were crying for mercy. We reached a clearing and across a stream stood the simple tree house, Junglistan Nivas.
All that excitement immediately transformed into energy towards work. Despite the slight drizzle, we began working like we had never before. Constructing the platforms, using jute ropes to tie banners and constructing bamboo enclosures- we were all pumped up! The cyber activists seemed to belong there, going out of their way to use their heads, hands and hearts to make the tree house perfect! It was amazing to see people who had contributed online, contributing just as hard if not more, on ground.
The satisfying exhaustion from doing all that physical work ensured a good night's sleep, and the next day we did it all over again. Close to the evening when we were giving the house some final touches, I stopped and realised that the moon was emitting the most beautiful golden light. As I turned around to appreciate it fully, I noticed that the tree right next to me was twinkling with thousands of fireflies.
I turned off my head torch and put down my hammer and just stared at it for ten minutes flat. With the sound of the stream behind me and the silhouettes of the surrounding trees, I realised that the greed for coal could wipe out all of this beauty. With that thought, I was even more determined to work harder to protect our forests.
Coal isn't a cheap source of energy - it's dirty and dangerous and now increasingly expensive. The forests, its people and wildlife shouldn't have to bear the brunt of our hunger for dirty coal. Please speak up for the forests before it's too late. Sign the petition to protect our forests at: www.junglistan.org/act