Coal is a dirty fuel: Abhay Deol

"Who pays for your electricity," asks Abhay Deol in a new series of videos released by environmental action group Greenpeace India. The answer is shocking. India’s energy sector is starving, and big power corporations are turning their attention on coal mining in forest areas that are the habitats of threatened wildlife, as well as communities that have long been dependent on the forest for their survival.

Coal is a dirty fuel, says Deol, adding in the same breath, “And a dirty business.”

So what does Abhay Deol have to do with coal mining? Well, the actor does not support the way it’s destroying forests in Central India. Singrauli, a district in Madhya Pradesh is a prime example. Here thousands of hectares of forest that forest communities and wildlife depend on for their survival have been lost due to coal. Coal mining companies have displaced forest dwellers with false promises, infringing on their human rights. Without access to the forests, their livelihood and homes will be lost forever.

Bollywood actor Abhay Deol backs Greenpeace India's campaign against coal mining in India's forest heartland

July 19, Greenpeace is launching a country-wide campaign, creating awareness not only about the plight of forest dwellers but also the destruction caused by coal mining to our forests, wildlife, water resources, and the endangered tiger.Since 2007 India’s coal production capacity has doubled and the Planning Commission of India projects a 250 percent increase in domestic coal consumption by 2031-32. This means more coal mines fast. Most of this coal is mined in Central India covering the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra.This same region is also India’s largest contiguous tiger landscape and coal fields here are in proximity to at least 10 Tiger Reserves. Proposed coal mining threatens over one million hectares of forest in just 13 of the coalfields in Central India. Vital corridors linking the tiger reserves of Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Achanakmar, Sanjay-Dubri, Palamu, Satkosia and Tadoba-Andhari come under threat.

India’s increasing dependence on coal to generate electricity comes at too high a cost. Tiger numbers in India are shamefully low at 1,700 and thirty-five percent of these tigers live in Central India. Mining and thermal power plants in their habitat impact them directly while also destroying natural corridors between tiger reserves. Are we prepared to let this magnificent animal die out in a blind rush for more coal, Greenpeace activists demand to know? The elephant and leopard habitats face a similar problem.

Coal mining pollutes rivers and groundwater and also results in the destruction of important watersheds for Central India’s major rivers. While coal adds to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation reduces the capacity of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide.

Coal is not just a dirty fuel, it happens to be dirty business too. The rampant corruption and lack of transparency in the allocation of coal blocks was evident in the recently leaked Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) coal report. A CBI enquiry is ongoing while media reports said coal blocks allocated without auction between 2004 and 2009 led to undue benefits of 10.67 lakh crore to private and public sector companies. This begs the question, who is really benefiting from sacrificing our forests for coal mines?

Greenpeace is calling for an immediate moratorium on mining in forest land and asking the Prime Minister to check corruption in coal block allocation while also enforcing a clear demarcation of mining areas. Brikesh Singh, Public Engagement Manager, Greenpeace India, says that peoples support is vital to win this campaign. He says, “Anybody can sign the Junglistan petition on the Greenpeace website. Once they do, they are a citizen of Junglistan, pledging to protect our forests from mining. In a few months the petition and all the signatures will be handed over to the Prime Minister.”

India’s coal will run out in the lifetime of the power plants we are building today. Then we would be forced to import even more coal than we do today. This is bad for the economy and our energy security. In effect we are sacrificing our ancient forests for a short term energy fix. The creation and use of clean, sustainable alternatives like solar and wind energy will solve our energy deficit, boost economic growth, reduce the dependence on coal and guarantee secure energy for us and future generations.  

Do you agree with Abhay Deol? Show your support by signing the Junglistan petition on the Greenpeace India website