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Tigers in the Tadoba forests in Maharashtra. About 30% of India's tigers are found in the Central Indian forests. Coal mining here will result in the destruction and fragmentation of forests, threatening both the wildlife and forest dependent communities.

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Fighting to save forests from coal-mining lobby

23 October 2012

What is the future of wildlife in central India's tiger-rich forests if the coal mining lobby is allowed to tear them up into barren strips? Greenpeace India is at the forefront of the activism against the government's policy of consuming forests for coal, directly attacking the source of the Coalgate scam.

The Greenpeace campaign to save forests in Central India from coal mining began on July 19, 2012 and reached a climax of sorts during the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that concluded on October 19. While India hosted the CBD, the most important international convention on protecting the Earth’s biodiversity, the Indian government’s plan to destroy forests in Central India to mine coal threatens the habitat of tigers and other wildlife while also displacing hundreds of thousands of forests dwellers.

The Greenpeace campaign to save Indian forests was launched along with the website Junglistan, where you can sign a petition addressed to the Prime Minister against forest destruction. Greenpeace is demanding an immediate moratorium on all forest clearances for coal mining in forest areas and withdrawal of mining licenses already granted in known biodiversity hotspots. Including signatures from a similar petition last year, 2,50,000 people supported this campaign. Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh tried to give these petitions to the PM at the CBD but he was denied access to even attend the PM’s keynote speech to the High Level Segment (HLS) of the CBD. In fact, all of civil society and even journalists were denied access to the HLS by the Indian government despite appeals from the UN.

Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh says, "While the Indian government is hosting this important conference on how nations across the globe can work together to protect habitats and species of the planet, why is it continuing a policy of mass destruction of the forests to pave the way for more coal mines? If the government’s policy of supporting forest destruction to favour big mining interests is allowed to continue, then the tiger will become an animal of myths and fairy tales for future generations.” Two tiger mascots accompanied Brikesh to the CBD to drive this point home. 

For their attempt Brikesh and the two 'tigers' were detained by the police for five hours and then released. But this will not stop him from trying to meet the PM soon to hand over all the petitions. A true leader must be ready to meet any citizen, especially when he has the support of lakhs of people.

A recent Greenpeace study showed that coal mining in 13 coalfields in Central India threatens over 1.1 million hectares of forest- an area equivalent to five of our metros combined. But this is just the tip of the iceberg as there are over 40 coalfields in central India and more coal blocks are being lined up for auction. It would be a devastating waste to destroy our forests for coal, when we have renewable energy alternatives.

To support the Greenpeace campaign and help save our forests, visit their campaign website.

Photos courtesy of Greenpeace India

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