By Ashish Fernandes, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a global campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. www.greenpeace.org
Forests, wildlife and indigenous communities in India are being sacrificed in the name of providing the country’s electricity. Over 70% of the India’s electricity is generated from coal-fired thermal plants. Much of this coal lies under forests in central India, rich in biodiversity and home to 1/3rd of India’s last remaining tigers. Thousands of forest dwelling communities also depend on these forests for their livelihood, and when the forests are destroyed they are forced deeper into poverty.
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 over decades due to coal. The coal mining companies have displaced forest dwellers with false promises, infringing on their human rights. Other forests in Central India have met the same fate, and many more are threatened.
This region is also India’s largest contiguous tiger landscape; 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 out of over 40 in Central India. Vital corridors linking the tiger reserves are under threat and elephant and leopard habitats will be destroyed. These forests act as important carbon sinks. Cutting them down to mine coal is a double blow for the climate, releasing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
A recent study by Greenpeace, Conservation Action Trust and Urban Emissions estimated that in 2011/12 100,000 people died prematurely as a result of emissions from coal-fired power stations in India.
Since 2007 India’s coal production capacity has doubled. But still an estimated 400 million Indians have little or no access to electricity. The Planning Commission of India projects a 250% increase in domestic coal consumption by 2031-32. This means more coal mines fast. It also spells the end of our forests, wildlife and a bleak future for forest dependent communities.
Contrary to what coal power companies and most government officials say, coal is not an inevitable, necessary evil, or the only way forward. There is a solution in decentralised renewable energy like solar and wind power, which can provide clean electricity even to those not connected to the central grid, with none of coal’s pollution, health costs, forest loss and climate disruption.
A recent Greenpeace and Infraline Energy report revealed that 22 out of 29 states in India failed to meet their Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) targets in 2012. RPO targets define how much electricity in the country must be produced from renewable energy sources. The capital Delhi, instead of leading by example, failed miserably producing only 0.03% electricity from renewable sources after setting a meagre target of 3.4%. As a matter of urgency, political will and pressure from the citizens must create a strong renewable energy policy which guarantees enough clean energy while also protecting our last remaining forests.
Carbon Market Watch comment
The CDM: A fossil fuel subsidy
The CDM was designed to bring clean and sustainable development to poor countries while enabling rich countries to achieve their emissions reductions cost efficiently. A closer look at which type of projects and sectors are supported by the CDM reveals that projects supporting the fossil fuel industry make up a significant share. New coal power plants can earn emissions credits for claimed improvements in power plant efficiency. However, CDM coal projects use business-as-usual technology and therefore generate carbon credits that do not represent real emission reductions, conflict with the CDM’s sustainability objectives and lock-in lock in billions of tons of CO2 emissions.
Madhya Pradesh is also the location for the 4000 MW coal power plant by Sasan Power Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries. The Sasan project is one of nine UMPP plants being pursued by the Indian government – four of which are pithead locations the other five will be coastal in order to receive coal imports. Another five CDM coal power projects are registered in India, including Adani group’s 1320 MW coal power plant in Mundra, in Gujarat which has already sold more than 600.000 offset credits to EDF Trading and more than 45 projects are in the pipeline. Current scarce climate finance must not be put into industries that practice environmental exploitation. The CDM must be unmasked as a fossil fuel subsidy.