We will Win the Fight to Save Mahan, Declares MSS

Press release - February 24, 2014
Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh| 24 February 2014| Mahan Sangharsh Samiti[1] (MSS) has declared that they will not allow Mahan forests in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh to be cut down by Essar for coal mining in spite of the stage II forest clearance granted by Minister of Environment and Forests, Veerappa Moily. The clearance granted by the minister tramples over the rights of several thousands of people, who have been dependant on the forests for their livelihoods for generations.

The fight will now take the shape of a ‘Satyagraha’, in which members of local community and MSS – an organisation of villagers opposing the Mahan coal mining project – will strongly oppose the stage II clearance given to Mahan. "We will do whatever it takes to save our forests. We cannot allow the forest to be cut down. It is our home," says Virendra Singh, resident of Amelia and member of MSS. The details of the Satyagraha would be announced at a mass public rally in Amelia Village, Singrauli District on the February 27, which is expected to witness a gathering of several thousands of people from at least 12 to 14 villages.

The Mahan Coal Block allocated to Mahan Coal Ltd – a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco was given Stage II forest clearance on February 12, earlier this month by Veerappa Moily. Mining in the forest will lead to loss of over 500,000 trees and impact over thousands of people in 54 villages.

Initially declared a no-go area by the environment ministry, the coal block was opposed by Moily’s predecessors, Jairam Ramesh and Jayanthi Natrajan. Moily has also conveniently even ignored Tribal Minister, K.C. Deo, who in June last year had written to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh about the blatant violation of the Forest Rights Act. 

Mahan coal block is also under the CBI scanner because of the sheer opacity in the manner it was allocated to Essar and Hindalco in 2006 as the state government initially opposing the block being given to Essar and then changed its position within just three weeks. But despite this, Essar has been shamelessly lobbying with the government for speedy environmental clearances.  

“We live in a highly distorted form of democracy, where money power rides roughshod over the rights of thousands of people, rendering them helpless. But we won’t let it happen this time. The fight in Mahan would be a historic one. The people of Mahan would show the world that money and power can no longer be abused to flout regulations and violate rights of people,” says Priya Pillai, member of MSS, who is also a campaigner with Greenpeace.

On January 22, Greenpeace and MSS had staged a peaceful protested outside Essar headquarters in Mumbai, questioning Mr. Moily's hasty pro-industry decisions. Essar slapped both Greenpeace and the villagers of the MSS with a Rs. 500 crore defamation suit along with a gag order. “Despite all odds, we are determined to fight it out. The Mahan forests belong to us and we have been living in harmony with Nature for several generations. No one can get away with destroying our forests,” says Kripanath Yadav, resident of Amelia village and member of MSS.

For further reading

[1] About Mahan Sangharsh Samiti: There are 54 villages dependant on the Mahan forests of Singrauli. Community members from five villages (Amelia, Bandhaura, Budher, Suhira and Barwantola) in the Mahan forests have organised themselves under the banner of MSS to assert their forest rights and have been opposing the proposed mine of Mahan Coal ltd (a joint venture of Essar and Hindalco). After a public meeting in August 2013, six more villages joined the movement, further strengthening MSS.

The Mahan coal block was initially rejected by former Environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh. However, it was granted in-principal (Stage I) approval by the MoEF on October 18, 2012, after substantial pressure from the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Coal Mining. This approval came with 36 conditions, which require a range of studies to be completed and the processes under the Forest Rights Act to be complied with.

Mining will destroy the livelihoods of 14,190 people, out of which 5,650 are from tribal communities as per the 2001 census. These people are from 14 villages which are completely dependent on Mahan forests. Mining in Mahan would mean opening doors for other coal blocks like Chatrasal awaiting approvals in the Mahan forests, which will further fragment the entire forests in the region.


Countering Coal –a discussion paper by Kalpavriksha and Greenpeace http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/report/Countering-coal.pdf



Priya Pillai, Member of MSS & Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India: 09999357766;

Avinash Kumar Chanchal, Media Officer, Greenpeace India: 08359826363;

Anindita Datta Choudhury, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India: 09871515804;