UK energy firm Essar and partner Hindalco had plans approved by the previous Indian government to mine Mahan forest of Madhya Pradesh for its coal reserves, despite opposition from environmentalists and thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the forest.
Energy companies have started lobbying the newly-elected government and told the prime minister and finance minister that coal mining operations are vital to the country’s economy. They lobbied the new PM, by urging him to make a final decision on the matter, given the enormous amount of work and money the firms have already put into the project.
The permission for operations was granted by the previous government, with the current one promising that it would be easier for companies to do business in India and labelling environmentalists as a threat to national security.
The plans have been criticised by Greenpeace, which claims that five million trees will be destroyed to clear land for operations, affecting the lives of tribal populations who have legal rights to use the forest.
“Over 14,190 lives and livelihoods are dependent on the Mahan forests, Madhya Pradesh. Their culture, community and lives are intertwined with the forests that the corporations threaten to destroy. Displacement from their natural habitat is going to be devastating for the indigenous community”, Greenpeace said.
It is also said that the coal extraction will affect the local wildlife and will cause biodiversity loss. Greenpeace has launched a petition to stop the project and have created a coalition of villages called Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, determined to block the mining plans.
Photo: Greg Goebel via Flickr