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Will fight to save Mahan forests from coal mining: MSS

Posted on Feb 24 2014 | IBNS

Singrauli, MP, Feb 24 : Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) has declared that they will not allow Mahan forests in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh to be cut down by Essar for coal mining in spite of the stage II forest clearance granted by Environment and Forests Minister Veerappa Moily.

The clearance granted by the minister tramples over the rights of several thousands of people, who have been dependent on the forests for their livelihoods for generations, the organisation informed.

The fight will now take the shape of a 'Satyagraha', in which members of local community and MSS - an organisation of villagers opposing the Mahan coal mining project - will strongly oppose the stage II clearance given to Mahan.

"We will do whatever it takes to save our forests. We cannot allow the forest to be cut down. It is our home," said Virendra Singh, resident of Amelia and member of MSS.

The details of the Satyagraha would be announced at a mass public rally in Amelia Village, Singrauli District on the Feb 27, which is expected to witness a gathering of several thousands of people from at least 12 to 14 villages.

The Mahan Coal Block allocated to Mahan Coal Ltd - a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco was given Stage II forest clearance on Feb 12 by Moily.

Mining in the forest will lead to loss of over 500,000 trees and impact over thousands of people in 54 villages, the organisation said.

Initially declared a no-go area by the environment ministry, the coal block was opposed by Moily's predecessors, Jairam Ramesh and Jayanthi Natrajan. Moily has also conveniently even ignored Tribal Minister K.C. Deo, who in June last year had written to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh about the blatant violation of the Forest Rights Act.

Mahan coal block is also under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) scanner because of the sheer opacity in the manner it was allocated to Essar and Hindalco in 2006 as the state government initially opposing the block being given to Essar and then changed its position within just three weeks.

"But despite this, Essar has been shamelessly lobbying with the government for speedy environmental clearances," MSS stated.

"We live in a highly distorted form of democracy, where money power rides roughshod over the rights of thousands of people, rendering them helpless. But we won't let it happen this time. The fight in Mahan would be a historic one. The people of Mahan would show the world that money and power can no longer be abused to flout regulations and violate rights of people," said Priya Pillai, member of MSS, who is also a campaigner with Greenpeace.

On Jan 22, Greenpeace and MSS had staged a peaceful protested outside Essar headquarters in Mumbai, questioning Moily's hasty pro-industry decisions. Following which, Essar slapped both Greenpeace and the villagers of the MSS with a Rs. 500 crore defamation suit along with a gag order.

"Despite all odds, we are determined to fight it out. The Mahan forests belong to us and we have been living in harmony with Nature for several generations. No one can get away with destroying our forests," said Kripanath Yadav, resident of Amelia village and member of MSS.

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