India is planning 455 new coal plants threatening national and global ecological collapse. Most coal is found under natural forests, though coal mine leases have been granted illegally for nearly two decades. Villagers in Madhya Pradesh are working to protect the Mahan forest, one of the last remaining patches of dense, unfragmented forest in central India, form a $3.5 billion coal mine being pushed upon them. The Mahan forest is home to tribal populations as well as endangered wildlife including sloth bears, elephants, leopards, peacocks and tigers. Villagers oppose the project, saying that it will destroy the timber, leaves and seeds of the centuries-old Sal forest on which they depend.
This month the village council in one of the 54 villages that depend upon the Mahan forest will vote over the proposed Mahan forest coal mine development by London-listed Essar Energy and Indian conglomerate Hindalco Industries. An earlier vote was marred by corruption, and the forest community’s rights have been violated in a systematic clampdown including the intimidation of villagers. Environment clearance by the government in 2007 was marred with irregularities. A successful vote opposing the mine in Mahan will boost the cause of hundreds of other anti-mining campaigns across the country, as a new forest law gives people a say over natural resources.
Unfettered economic and population growth sweeping India threatens the nation's climate, food and water supplies, and India’s future potential for sustained national economic advancement. With 300 million Indians still lacking electricity, there is no hope for equitable and ecologically sustainable development based upon filthy coal and loss of the nationals last old-growth forest remnants. The question is whether India will succumb to the greed of a small but powerful minority who want to usurp the larger community’s fundamental rights of access to clean air, water, and food. India's political establishment should embrace long-term sustainable development programs based upon a renewable energy and restoration ecology economy.
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Large connected ecosystems not only sustain India's beloved tigers, but also the ecosystem services including water and climate that humans depend upon
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