Abhay Deol supports forests in Singrauli

Flies in hot air balloon over forests threatened by coal mining

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Press release - January 11, 2012
New Delhi/Singrauli, 11 January, 2012: Actor Abhay Deol became a Greenpeace activist today as he joined the campaign against forest destruction for coal production. He flew in a hot air balloon over the rich forests in Mahan in the 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 (1).

"These valuable and irreplaceable forests will be cut down to meet the energy demands of urban dwellers like us. There are people's lives and livelihoods at stake. There is wildlife thriving in these forests. All that will be gone to serve the greed of a few. That is one compelling reason that has brought me here to talk about these forests that we are flying over. To show people that these forests need to be protected from coal mining and to urge them to act now," said actor Abhay Deol on board the hot air balloon.

The future of these forests and forest dependent communities are on the line, with the Group of Ministers on coal, headed by Pranab Mukherjee, expected to permit mining here very soon. This block had been listed as a 'No Go' region and has been a bone of contention between the Ministry of Environment and Coal Ministry, with the Prime Minister's Office also lobbying for clearance.

"We do recognize the demand for energy in an emerging economy. But destroying healthy forests and wildlife, threatening livelihoods and communities, is just not an acceptable cost," argued Priya Pillai, Campaigner, Greenpeace. Coal mining companies, including the government owned Coal India Limited, already have access to vast coal reserves including forest area and homelands of indigenous peoples, and continue to demand more (2).

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. "This is really a land grab by the government for private interests," Priya added.

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 energy industry needs to come clean on sub-optimal mining practices and inefficiencies in power generation and distribution before they can ask for more forests for coal mining. The government must also look at cleaner and more sustainable alternatives.

Notes to the Editor:

(1) Coal India Limited, the Ministry of Coal and even the Prime Minister's Office has been pushing for the Mahan forest block to be allocated for coal mining to fuel power plants by Essar and Hindalco. Significantly, forest clearance for the coal mine has been rejected four times before by the Forest Advisory Committee. Former Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, also had strong objections to giving away such quality forests. (http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Mahan.pdf)

(2) More than 26,000 hectares of forest land has been diverted for coal mining since 2007, making coal one of the biggest threats to forests in the country. 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.

For photo, go to link: http://photo.greenpeace.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&VBID=27MZV8LR6NQ8&VBIDL=&SMLS=1&RW=1280&RH=662

For further information, please contact:

Seema Javed, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India, 09910059765,

Archie Bandyopadhyay, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India, 09811265284,

Priya Pillai, Policy Officer, Greenpeace India, 09999357766,