Like India's failing electricity grid system, the Royal Bengal Tiger, the national animal of India, is in serious trouble.
And it won’t take much trouble to undermine the long-term future of this magnificent, but endangered, species, of which just 1,700 still exist in the wild in India.
One of the biggest threats to tigers comes from coal mining. The solution, which would also help to avert another repeat of the massive blackouts that have hit India this week, would be to invest in renewable energy.
But to feed the coal-fired power plants that produce about 80% of India’s electricity, the country currently imports vast amounts of expensive coal, driving up the costs of electricity.
So the government has resolved to expand domestic coal mining, despite the fact this will destroy the habitat of tigers, elephants and leopards, among other species.
Greenpeace India has released a new report, How Coal Mining is Trashing Tigerland, which investigates the threat that coal mining poses for tigers in particular.
A geographic information system (GIS) analysis shows that coal mining in just 13 of the country's 40 major coalfields could destroy more than 1.1 million hectares of the forests that tigers, elephants and leopards call home. These species are found in about half of this vast area of coalfields.
The endangered tiger inhabits a significant chunk of the 13 coalfields. And while the Indian government claims tigers are its conservation priority, it absurdly allows coal mining in Central India where most of the coal reserves lie.
Mining in central India will disrupt a large area of undisturbed habitat for the Royal Bengal Tiger. On top of this, mining would also trash the vital wildlife corridors that connect some of India’s famous tiger reserves.
If India continues to depend on coal, as it seems ready to do, wild tigers and elephants could soon disappear, threatened just as much as the communities that suffer from coal plant pollution, disruption of their way of life and the impacts of climate change.
India’s main argument for relying on coal is that it delivers cheap electricity. But, in fact that is no longer the case.
The clear alternative for India is to build more renewable energy. This would protect the habitat of tigers and other species from coal mining.
Recent reports have estimated that India has enough wind potential alone to meet its electricity needs for the foreseeable future.
In addition, a renewable energy system built on rooftop solar and other technologies could help India deal with another serious problem, its grid system.
This week, the grid system has failed, leaving more than 700 million people without electricity for long stretches. Renewable energy could supply electricity without the need to rely on the major electricity grids that are a chronic problem in India.
A concerted effort in developing a renewable energy system would protect the Royal Bengal Tiger.