No More Coal!
October 2012: With the majority of her coal reserves lying under the last remaining forests in India, coal mining is one of the largest threats facing Central India’s biodiversity today. These destructive projects are being approved and expanded at a terrible pace, and the ecologies they damage are reaching a tipping point.
Photograph by Sudhanshu Malhotra /Greenpeace.
Let’s Start with the Stats
Ashish Fernandes, Senior Greenpeace campaigner, reveals that coal mining is the single largest threat that the Central Indian forest region – incidentally, India’s largest contiguous tiger habitat – has ever faced. The statistics speak for themselves:
Central India holds almost 90 per cent of India’s coal reserves, sourced from open-cast mining, which involves clearing forests and topsoil to expose coal seams.
These coalfields are in the vicinity of at least eight tiger reserves.
Since 2007, the lease area and production capacity of India’s coal mines has doubled. Over 26,000 hectares of forest land has been cleared for coal mining since 2007.
India’s current coal consumption is about 650 million tonnes per annum. If the Planning Commission has its way, this figure will almost triple to 1,659 million tonnes by 2032. You do not need a mathematician to figure out that this doubling of domestic coal production would imply a massive increase in the forest area required for coal mines.
The Proof of the Pudding…
Greenpeace coordinated a GIS analysis that looked at 13 of the 40 plus coalfields in Central India. The Geoinformatics Lab at ATREE, Bangalore superimposed maps of the coal fields with forest cover data from the Forest Survey of India and official data from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (2011), along with the locations of Protected Areas, Tiger Reserves and wildlife corridors. In a few places where field data contradicted the NTCA data, the discrepancy was reflected in the analysis.
The results could not be more shocking. These 13 coalfields alone contain over one million hectares of forest, most of it dense forest. That’s almost double the area of India’s top five metro cities, combined!
At least eight tiger reserves, which harbor an estimated 230 tigers, will be affected due to the loss of connecting corridors as a result of mining in these 13 coalfields. The impact of ongoing coal mining between Satpura, Pench and Kanha Tiger Reserves has not even been included in this analysis, so this is only a conservative estimate.
Taking a Stand
In an attempt to shine light on Central India’s black-as-coal prospects, Brikesh Singh from Greenpeace made the bold decision to spend 30 days on a tree in Central India, to highlight the importance of such habitats. Our government seems to be on a path to destroy whatever little biodiversity we have left. If India continues to rely on coal for most of its electricity, it will mean compromising our forests, wildlife corridors, watersheds and the displacement of large numbers of forest-dependent communities.
You can join Brikesh’s struggle to save Central India’s forests by signing a petition to the Prime Minister on www.junglistan.org.