Brikesh Singh, who is living on a tree in Chandrapur, had a special visitor recently. Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, the Member of Parliament from the Chandrapur constituency came over to Brikesh’s tree house on September 22 and was all praise for his endeavour to save Central Indian forests from coal mining. Brikesh has been living in the tree house on the fringes of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra since September 1, 2012. But this was the first time that a Parliamentarian expressed his support for Brikesh’s tree-top protest.
Ahir is well known in Maharashtra for his special interest in environmental protection. He has even fought against the coal lobby in Maharashtra. In fact, he played a pivotal role in exposing the coal scam by writing a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in 2010, asking them to investigate coal mining in India.
25 September 2012
Chandrapur MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir with Brikesh Singh at Junglistan Nivas
The Parliamentarian understood the campaign well and also strongly supported the demand for a moratorium on allocating coal mines in forests. He was also thrilled to see clean energy being used to power the tree house.
He said, “I admire what Brikesh Singh is doing to save the forests and appreciate the fact that the tree house is fitted with solar panels for power. This is a multi-dimensional campaign, not just raising awareness against coal, but also veering the focus towards solar energy. It is about time that the Central government looks towards renewable energy as an alternative to coal. It should avoid allocating coal blocks on forest land.”
The goal of Greenpeace’s Junglistan campaign is precisely that and Brikesh’s tree top protest is meant to garner more attention to this important issue. Coal mining in the forests of Central India will destroy forests, indigenous forest communities, tigers and other wildlife. It will continue to cause environmental damage like air and water pollution while also increasing carbon emissions.
Brikesh who has been in the forest for three weeks now has been keeping in touch with supporters through blogs, social media and videos. He has been asking people to sign the online petition addressed to the Prime Minister asking him to stop all coal block allocations in forest areas.
Over 90,000 people have already signed the petition and with signatures of people who have shown support for forests in the past year, the number is over 200,000. Brikesh will deliver all these signatures to the PM in October at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that India is hosting in Hyderabad. Brikesh said, “We are losing these forests to the greed of private mining companies and the corrupt system. India cannot host the convention on bio-diversity and at the same time turn a blind eye to this destruction. Mr Ahir has assured us today that the Parliamentarians will take up this issue up.”
He also added that the visit by the MP has boosted his morale and has added a fresh energy to this cause. It is very significant that an MP is willing to stand up to support this campaign and create more awareness among his colleagues. Our forests, wildlife and indigenous forest communities need a lot more support from the individuals in power. Brikesh rightly points out, “Our leaders need to ensure that they fulfil their responsibility to protect the rights of forest communities and wildlife and if certain government policies compromise on these rights then they should take the lead in rejecting them.”
To support Brikesh Singh and help protect the last remaining forests in Central India sign the petition at www.junglistan.org/home.