India’s most controversial coal mine project may not go ahead, according to government documents acquired by Greenpeace through RTI.

The Mahan coal block will destroy the livelihoods of more than 50,000 people

An Office Memorandum of the Ministry of the Environment Forests and Climate Change – dated 22nd December 2014 and secured through an RTI request, clearly states that even though the Mahan project has been accorded Stage II Forest Clearance, the Mahan block may not be put on auction as it falls in ‘inviolate forests’ and mining has not begun.

This is the third time the Environment Ministry has told the Coal Ministry to deny permission to mine Mahan. If the recommendations are adhered to, the decision represents a huge victory for campaigners and the people of Mahan who say the Madhya Pradesh coal project would have impacted endangered wildlife, destroyed over 4 lakh trees, and livelihoods of over 50,000 people from various villages located in and around the forest.

One of those campaigners is Priya Pillai, was recently ‘offloaded’ from a London-bound flight because of her work on Mahan. Her case made headlines around the world. Today she said: “This is wonderful news for the people of Mahan who have been fighting to save the forests. It vindicates our stand that this is one of India’s oldest forests that should be protected from coal mining”, said Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace campaigner who was recently ‘offloaded’ from a London-bound flight because of her work on Mahan.  “If Mahan is inviolate, it also has implications for other blocks in the region like Chhatrasal and Dongrital which form the corridor between Sanjay Dubri Tiger reserve to Bagdara sanctuary. This once again proves that our campaign for Mahan and the rights of the people of Mahan is in national interest – environmentalism and human rights are not crimes.”

Kripanath Yadav, a resident of Amelia, and member of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) said, “We are overjoyed at hearing this news. Mahan forest is our very lifeline and this news makes us believe that we now have a real chance to protect and preserve our heritage and home. The government must now pay heed to our demands on forest rights.”

The ball is now in the Coal Ministry’s court which has to come clear on their position on MoEF’s recommendation. The block was allocated to a joint venture between Hindalco industries and Essar Power in 2006 and was to supply coal for 14 years to a power plant of Essar and aluminium project of Hindalco.

More than 1 million people have signed on to Greenpeace India’s Junglistan campaign and this is a milestone in the campaign to save the forests for all of us. Priya Pillai and Greenpeace India have been supporting tribal villages in the Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh opposed to the Mahan coal mine. It is believed that the growing fight to stop the mine is the reason that Priya Pillai was singled out by the government.

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