Hyderabad/New Delhi, October 8, 2012: Hours after Jayanthi Natarajan, the Minster of the Environment and Forests, opened the United Nations conference on biodiversity in Hyderabad, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner from the balcony of the Charminar, one of the city’s most iconic monuments demanding that the Indian Government halt all new coal mining in forest areas if they were really serious about conserving biodiversity. The 60 foot banner emblazoned with the Indian Prime Minister’s face read – Stop Coal Crimes – Save Indian Forests.
Joining the activists at today’s protest in Hyderabad was Amala Akkineni, movie star and environmental activist. Commenting on why she was taking part in today’s protest Amala Akkineni said: “Coal mining is destroying the huge biodiversity in India. It is destroying the homes of tens of thousands of tribal communities and it is threatening the natural habitat of the Indian Tiger. That is why I am protesting today along with almost a quarter of a million people who have signed Greenpeace India’s petition demanding the government to stop destroying our forests”.
In recent months a series of serious allegations have surfaced on the allocation of licenses for new coal mines by the Indian Government which has led to the stalling of the Indian Parliament and an investigation looking into how licenses were given out.
Commenting on today’s protest, Vinuta Gopal, head of Greenpeace’s Climate and Energy campaign said: “It is utterly hypocritical for the Minister of Environment to stand up in front of thousands of delegates at this conference on biodiversity while at the same time her government is engaged in acts of wanton environmental vandalism that is demolishing millions of hectares of forests and affecting thousands of tribal families”.
To be a good host for this major international conference, India must take a lead and call a halt to further mining projects in identified forest areas. To maintain pressure on the Government, Greenpeace India and Kalpavriksh will release a new report on October 15, 2012 highlighting how the expansion of coal mining across the central Indian landscape is systematically destroying the lives of thousands of indigenous communities, with many being forced to abandon their traditional homelands and live in so called ‘rehabilitation centres’. This new study will be launched at the UN’s biodiversity conference on the eve of the Indian PM’s address to delegates at the conference.
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