23 June 2014
Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Vinit Gupta / Greenpeace
"Essar has been using the report to instigate people against Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) and Greenpeace. They have been circulating inflammatory pamphlets and pushing stories in local media to discredit the good work MSS and Greenpeace have done over the past few years in the region," says Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace campaigner who has been working closely with MSS.
Greenpeace India has been supporting MSS in their fight against Essar's proposed coal mine in Mahan, which will lead to felling of over 4,00,000 trees, and massive loss of biodiversity. Besides this, the mine will destroy the livelihoods of over 50,000 people from 54 villages, who are dependent on Mahan forests for non-timber forest produce.
This blind pursuit of coal, as our main source of energy, is going to leave nothing for our future generations. Do we want to give them a world where air is polluted with toxins, land is barren and rivers are dying?
We need energy to grow and we can get it without annihilating our planet. Moving to clean and abundant energy sources, like solar and wind power, is the need of the hour and a route to real development.
Over the years, MSS members and Greenpeace activists have become accustomed to receiving threats from local goons in Mahan. In May 2014, two MSS members and two Greenpeace activists were arrested for merely trying to protect Mahan forests from mining. While three of them were released on bail after over 40 hours, the fourth activist Bechanlal was granted bail after 28 days in custody.
On June 20, 2014, a forest rights activist was detained illegally by Singrauli police for trying to record the proceedings of a Gram Sabha in Amelia village of Singrauli. The activist had recorded the sarpanch trying to physically assault one of the members of MSS. Following this, his camera was confiscated and its contents deleted by police officials.
Reacting to the arrest of the activist, Kanthi Singh Khairwar from the MSS said, "Such malicious efforts will bear no fruits as villagers here are determined to save their forests from mining. We are ready to go through any kind of torture to save our forests. The company is trying to use its influence over the local administration and police to muzzle any kind of dissent."
The IB report is using the 'development' ploy to silence dissent in the country. However, the voices that want to protect the planet cannot be suppressed for long. Irrespective of our nationality, destruction of the environment will eventually lead to our destruction. Fortunately, the power to prevent this destruction also lies with us.