Our addiction to burning coal for energy is leading us into crisis.
Since 2007, more than 26,000 hectares of forest land in India has been diverted to coal mining, making coal one of the biggest threats to forests in the country. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake here. There is wildlife thriving in these forests. That’s why the famous Bollywood actor Abhay Deol joined the Greenpeace campaign against forest destruction for more coal mining. He flew in a hot air balloon over the rich forests at Mahan in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh to bring attention to what we stand to lose if the government opens up Mahan and other forests in Central India to coal mining. The coal ministry has been asking for additional forest land to increase coal production in central India, blaming forest clearance procedures for a shortfall in energy generation. Coal companies, including government owned Coal India Limited, have access to over 200,000 hectares of coal bearing land, including 55,000 hectares of forest area.
Abhay Deol, on board the hot air balloon, was raising serious concerns about the fact that these valuable and irreplaceable forests will be cut down to meet the energy demands of urban dwellers like many of us, he said. All that forest will be lost to serve the greed of a few. That is one compelling reason, he said, that has inspired him to talk about the forests that he was flying over. He also said that we have to show people that these forests need to be protected and to urge and empower them to act now.
If the Mahan block is cleared for mining it will set a dangerous precedent and signal a major setback for communities, civil society and citizens concerned about the environment and human rights.
Greenpeace demands a moratorium on all new coal mining in forest areas until the government sets criteria for “inviolate” forests (those closed to mining) through a transparent consultative process.
The Indian Government must also look at cleaner and more sustainable alternatives. Safe, renewable-energy can power our future – it will be cheaper and healthier for our families and our planet. The first step is to say no to new coal power.