The analysis of data showed that
almost all the coalfields overlap with endangered species
habitat. Of the 1.1 million hectares of forest at risk, over
185,000 hectares are inhabited by tigers, over 270,000 hectares
by leopards and over 55,000 hectares by elephants.
Stating that the blackout in Northern India is not a reason to fast-track coal
projects, Ashish Fernandes, Coal Campaigner with Greenpeace said, “The black-out
is a wake-up call for the government to revisit its unsustainable energy policy.
We need to diversify our power generation sources as well as our distribution
model – Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency can no longer be given step
motherly treatment. Locking the country into a coal intense pathway is going to
be disastrous for the country, and will not guarantee us power.”
The report highlights the
ecological destruction and massive loss India is facing from the
huge expansion in coal mining. Forest corridors connecting eight
tiger reserves – including some of India’s finest such as
Tadoba-Andhari, Kanha and Bandhavgarh - are at risk. These
corridors have been identified by the government’s own Tiger
Conservation Authority as essential for the long term survival
of the species. Yet they also face the threat of coal mining
from the Coal Ministry.
Greenpeace warned that this
analysis is the tip of the iceberg as there are approximately 40
coalfields in the central Indian region, many of them in forest
areas. “This study focuses on coal mining’s impact on mega
fauna, but the loss of forests is also going to hit the
communities dependent on them hard. The era of cheap coal is
over – across India, from mine to power plant, communities are
questioning coal as a source of electricity and asking for
sustainable alternatives.” added Fernandes.
After the Prime Minister’s Office
and the Group of Ministers dismissed the ‘Go/No Go’ policy on
coal mining in forest areas, the coal lobby has been demanding
that the Ministry of Environment approve all coal mining
proposals in forest areas. In April 2012, Environment Minister
Jayanthi Natarajan refuted the charge that her ministry was to
blame for the power shortage faced by the country stating that
the clearances granted by her Ministry for coal mining and
coal-fired power plants in fact surpass the Indian government’s
own targets till 2017.
“The Ministry of Environment
continues to clear coal based power projects and mines way
beyond requirements, often over-riding the objections of its own
officials and committees. We are asking for an immediate
moratorium on all new forest clearances, until the criteria for
determining forests off limits to mining are agreed on and
implemented, with proper public consultation and input,” said
Biswajit Mohanty of Wildlife Society of Orissa and member of the
National Board of Wildlife.
The report also identifies key
corporate players in each coalfield and warns that securing
clearances for coal mining in forest areas is going to be more
difficult as the level of scrutiny by civil society increases.
As part of a public mobilization drive, Greenpeace is also
collecting signatures on a petition to the Prime Minister
demanding that he ensure the protection of forests in Central
India from coal mining. Individuals can sign this petition at