Coal mining threatens forests, tigers: Greenpeace

August 1st, 2012 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Aug 1 (IANS) Environment watchdog Greenpeace Wednesday sought an immediate moratorium on new coal projects in the country citing evidences that the mining threatened forests and wildlife.

“From 2007 to 2011, the coal mine lease area and coal production capacity have nealry doubled compared to pre-2007 levels” Greenpeace campaigner Ashish Fernandes told reporters here.

Greenpeace also released a report titled, ‘How Coal Mining is Trashing Tigerland’, saying how coal mining threatened over 1.1 million hectares of forest in 13 coalfields in central India.

Fernandes said virtually all new coal mines and a proportion of the planned power plants were located in central India covering Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra.

These places were also home to 35 percent of the country’s tiger population, he said.

A look at landscapes where coal mining was well established such as Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh or Chandrapur in Maharashtra demonstrated the industry’s devastating impact on forests, he said.

But there are other locations where the problem was already or would soon be equally severe, he said.

“If India continues its reliance on coal to meet its energy needs, the destruction already seen in these areas will be multiplied exponentially across much of central India,” he said.

Saying that blackout in north and east India was not a reason to fast-track coal projects, Fernandes said: “The blackout is a wake-up call for the government to revisit its unsustainable energy policy.”

The Greepeace report overlaid maps of the 13 coalfields with forest cover, protected area boundaries and the latest government data on tiger, elephant and leopard presence.

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 hectare by elephants, the report said.

“The government continues to clear coal power projects and mines way beyond requirements, often overriding the objections of its 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 upon and implemented, with proper public consultation and input,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a National Board for Wildlife member.

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