Civil society assails impact of coal mining and coal power plants on biodiversity

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Press release - October 12, 2012
In a side event organized at CBD COP at Hyderabad on 12th October, a number of NGOs and Movement groups came together to decry adverse and debilitating impact of coal mining on the biodiversity and livelihoods of the people.

Bharat Jan VigyanJathha organized the event in collaboration with Greenpeace, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), Beyond Copenhagen, NFFW and others. The side event highlighted the destructive impact of coal mining on biodiversity and livelihoods and coastal and marine biodiversity, two important areas, which Government of India feels is extremely important for discussion in the current COP.

Mr. Soumya Dutta Convener of Bharat Jan Vigyan Jathaa said that at this point of time, the country is being pushed hard by its political and business leaders -- into numerous large scale 'developmental' projects all over the ecologically sensitive regions that harbor the greatest variety of biological and genetic resources including coasts, forests, wetlands and the sub-Himalayan mountains. He cited how thermal power plants have wreaked destruction not only on the lives and habitat of the local fisher folk but also the highly rich biodiversity of the Kutch coast and mangroves. He added that in a number of places including Kudankulam, Jaitapur, Konkan, Andhra and Odisha coasts have severely destroyed the richest of the biodiversity in these coastal and forest areas.

Mr. Nandikesh from Greenpeace said highlighted that in the last five years, India has witnessed an unprecedented increase in new coal mines and the establishment of coal-fired thermal power plants, a significant proportion of the planned power plants, and virtually all of the new coal mining, will be located in a region broadly referred to as Central India – covering the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of Orissa and eastern Maharashtra. This same region is also India's largest contiguous tiger landscape, and coal fields here are in proximity to over 10 Tiger Reserves. Based on the findings of the study conducted covering 13 coal fields, he added that these coal fields will result in destruction of more than 1 million ha of standing forests. 200,000 ha of these areas had registered presence of tigers, elephants and leopards in 2010.

Chandrika Sharma from ICSF citing a study of impact of climate change on fisher folk saidthat key areas relating to climate change that have an impact upon the lives and livelihoods of fishers include: sea level, sea-surface temperature, sea-surface salinity, wind patterns, seasonality and seasonal patterns, rainfall, natural disasters, waves and currents, tidal action, mud flows and turbidity, and shoreline changes (erosion and sedimentation). She emphasized while climate change is a global phenomena it is being exacerbated by a host of local factors including coal mining and thermal power projects. The thermal power projects are hugely responsible for rising salination, acidification of water and water temperature, which has largely severely affected the entire marine ecosystem including the fishes.

The speakers demanded an immediate Moratorium on forest clearances for coal mining, exclusion of all wildlife and forest corridors and areas inhabited by key endangered species from all existing coal fields/coal blocks and that no forest clearance to be granted without first ensuring that the Forest Rights Act is implemented in letter and spirit. They also demanded initiation of a public consultative process to determine criteria for areas that will be kept off limits to mining. These criteria should include but not necessarily be limited to forest cover, endangered species presence, level of community dependence on forest resources, hydrological value etc.

Signed -- SoumyaDutta – Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, Nandikesh- Greenpeace, Chandrika Sharma – International Council for Support to Fishers, Pradip Chatterjee – National Fishworkers Forum.