Here is a post from 350.org India Coordinator, Chaitanya Kumar. As people across the United States continue to rise up against coal plants, fracking, and the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s important that we’re building solidarity with movements around the world.
Local victories against Coal: Maharashtra
by Chaitanya Kumar
We recently finished the Naya Swaraj cycle yatra from Sevagram in Maharashtra to Mumbai. The 850 KM cycle rally aimed at highlighting the negative impacts of fossil fuels on our agriculture and understanding the need for organic farming. While the 20 day journey was an enriching experience in understanding the diversity of issues that Indian farmers face, one of the issues that continues to trouble most of us is the growing cluster of coal fired thermal power plants in India and especially the state of Maharashtra.
The numbers speak for themselves. In the state of Maharashtra, 38 thermal power plants are planned to be set up in the coming few years. That makes it a total of 32376 MW of coal fired power being proposed for one single state and is a little more than a sixth of India’s total installed power generation capacity as of 2011. These power projects are being set up by big companies both private and public like the Reliances, Maharashtra Genco (MAHAGENCO), TATAs, NTPC, LANCOs. Many other small companies are foraying into power generation after observing the state and central Govt’s lack of attention to environmental and social harms of coal.
But if recent developments in India are to go by, then the road ahead for most coal fired power stations is going to be much more difficult than one predicted. Quite recently a 4000 MW Ultra mega power project in the Raigad district got scrapped after local residents opposed the project tooth and nail over land acquisition issues. Strong advocacy and campaigning amongst farmers in the region by local movements helped raise awareness over the issue and moved people to act in order to protect their land and natural resources. Another recent victory comes from the Wardha district of the state where local movements encouraged by groups like the Vidharbha Environmental Action Group successfully won a court hearing in against Lanco and their corrupt environmental practices.
The company in connivance with the state pollution control board manipulated the minutes of the public hearing (a mandatory exercise to determine the support for the industrial project). The judges revealed that basic public hearing norms were violated and those who opposed the project were beaten by company hired goons and also state police men. The cancellation of the hearing now forces the company to organize another hearing soon after which the environmental appraisal committee will take a call on the project.
As a landmark judgement in environmental cases in India, this is another example of peoples victories against coal. The struggles are never easy but thanks to improved advocacy, information availability and strategic campaigning by a few individuals and groups, people are being waking up to the reality that its takes nothing less than a fight to safeguard our environment and our future.
350.org is learning from these amazing stories and aiming to strengthen the movement against coal and carbon emissions across India and the world. Similar struggles are taking place across the India and we support and work in solidarity with these movements for the safety of our future generations.