Greenpeace activists occupy trees outside the Coal Ministry

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Feature story - September 11, 2012
On September 11, Greenpeace activists took the fight to protect our forests from coal mining right to the source - the Union Coal Ministry. In a daring display of solidarity and concern for our last remaining forests in Central India, Greenpeace activists occupied trees across the road from the Coal Minister’s office at Shastri Bhavan. From here they unfurled a 50ft banner reading “Ministry of Coal Scams and Forest Destruction”, as part of a direct communiqué to the minister asking him to stop using the coal shortage, which is firstly caused by the large scale corruption in the coal industry, to mine in forest areas.

Coming close on the heels of a 21st August activity where Greenpeace activists carried a banner at Rajpath, the road leading to the PMO, saying 'Dr Singh Defend Forests not Coal Scams', Greenpeace is taking the issue of forest protection directly to the government bodies responsible for their destruction. 

Speaking at the Coal Ministry, Greenpeace campaigner Arpana Udupa said, “It’s now clear that corruption is the real reason behind the coal shortage, not slow environmental clearances. Mr. Jaiswal and the coal lobby can no longer use the power shortage as a pretext to destroy more forest areas for coal mining. More than 2,50,000 people are demanding a halt on new forest clearances till clear criteria are in place to prevent mining in areas relied on by forest communities and endangered species, including the tiger.”

The Greenpeace activists on the trees outside the Coal Ministry were also acting in unity with another Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh, who has been living on a tree since 1st September 2012, near the Padmapur mine in Maharashtra on the edge of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger reserve, which is threatened by indiscriminate coal mining. Singh intends to remain on the tree till the end of September, to call attention to the impact coal mining is having on the forests and wildlife in Central India. Once he leaves the tree, he hopes to meet the PM and deliver to him the petition signed by lakhs of individuals asking the PM to protect our forests from coal mining. 

Speaking from the edge of the Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Brikesh Singh said, “Coal mining is the biggest threat to forest communities and endangered species like the tiger in Central India. Next month, India will be hosting the international Convention on Biological Diversity; we need to set an example by protecting both biodiversity and forest-dependent communities. More than 2,50,000 people have already signed on to a petition to the Prime Minister to stop this destruction and stand up to the corrupt coal lobby – it’s time for him to act.”  

11 September 2012

Sheroo and Bhaloo outside the Coal Ministry at Shastri Bhavan © Karan Vaid / Greenpeace

 

Volunteers in ‘Sheroo’ (tiger) and ‘Bhaloo’ (bear) costumes engaged with the public on the road outside the Coal Ministry, speaking to people about the Coal Ministry’s role in pushing coal mining proposals that are destroying forest areas.

Significantly, in August 2012, the Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan refuted the charge that her ministry is responsible for the power shortage facing the country. She said that the environmental clearances for coal mining and coal-fired power plants actually exceed the Indian government’s own targets till 2017.

Greenpeace is calling for a halt on any further allocations and forest clearances for coal mining, until a transparent public consultation process is held to arrive at criteria or standards to determine which forests should be permanently closed to mining. These criteria need to take into account biodiversity, livelihood dependence, hydrological values and the value of intact landscapes.

Right now it is imperative that we pressure our government to protect the last remaining forests in Central India from coal mining or else India’s rich wildlife including the tiger would suffer immensely along with all the forest dwelling communities. To learn more and sign the petition, visit www.junglistan.org/home.

-Ignatius Thekaekara