18 April 2014

Sunset through the leaves of the Mahua tree. Photo credit: Shashwati Shankar/Greenpeace


In the depths of Mahan forest, the golden silence ceases to exist and the faint murmuring of birds echoes through the woods. The sound of dried leaves rustling through the wind and the rich scent of the earth infused with the distinctive sweetness of the pale yellow Mahua fruits can stir the soul and inspire the minds of weary spirits. The beauty of the jungle lay in its preservation not its destruction.

So... the question remains, why do I choose to come to the Mahan forest and attempt to make a difference by documenting my journey here? Because 15 mining projects by industry giants, including Essar, Reliance, Hindalco and Jaypee Group threaten the forest. The reality of the situation is devastating.

Considering the fact that almost one third of the forest land in the district has been diverted for mining, the loss of one of Asia's oldest Sal forests will ultimately affect all our lives.

Mahan coal block is under the last remaining patch of very dense, unfragmented forest in the Singrauli coalfield region (districts located in Madhya Pradesh and Sonebhadra district in Uttar Pradesh). The situation is critical and the government doesn't care, so the urgency for the people to come together is vital.

If we don't unite to create an impact and attempt to save not only the lives of the indigenous people who belong to the forest, but also one of our country's last surviving non-renewable resources, then who will?

Placed about 600 metres above the sea level, more than 90% of the coal block allocated for mining is under the Mahan forest reserve. It also falls in the catchment area of two perennial rivers, the Rampa, Mahan and Rihand reservoir. Hundreds of streams and rivulets originating from the hills feed these precious water bodies. The reservoir is the lifeline for the farmers of that region.

So, you may ask, what would be the result of mining in the Mahan region? Well of course, it would pollute the rivers as well as the reservoir! Not to mention, the people's livelihoods would be demolished, the biodiversity of the forest would disappear, endangered species would be further threatened and ultimately adding to climate change could imperil all life on planet earth.

As a journalist, the issue deeply affected me when I heard about it, as an individual concerned about the socio-cultural and environmental issues, I will do everything in my power to communicate the story to anyone and everyone who cares to listen. Still don't think it concerns you? Think again.

If you and I don't stand up to the iniquitous corporations and fight for what's right, no one will. Every single one of you out there reading this matters, you can make a difference to what's happening in the Mahan forest. Silence will only lead to further suppression, speak up and your voice will be heard!

Help save Mahan's forests. Join Junglistan: http://www.junglistan.org/

Shashwati Shankar is a journalist. 

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