I was contacted by Greenpeace recently with the striking news that nearly half a million trees have been saved thanks to the actions of campaigners in both India and the UK. News like that isn’t something I’m used to reading every day so I had to dig in a little bit further.
It transpires that with the help of Greenpeace, people from Mahan in India are celebrating as the Indian Ministry of Environment recommend saving the ancient forest where they live and work from becoming a giant, opencast coal mine.
This came to the attention of Greenpeace’s India division who promptly put out a call to action last year to save Mahan Forest. It garnered international attention which started a campaign in the UK in which 80,000 people sent emails to the Indian Minister of Tribal Affairs to ask that he stop the coal company Essar bullying and intimidating local people into voting to support the coal mine.
I remember this because I was one of the people that clicked the link, visited the website and sent an email, being busy I then forgot about it after a while and today I’m delighted to say I received an email saying that the campaign had worked. People power has won out over the needs of big business and big government.
Buckling to international pressure a critical vote on the issue was cancelled and the Indian Supreme Court came to a judgement – that all coal mine licences granted since 1993 are invalid – including Mahan!
The Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has now recommended that the coal mine in Mahan does not go ahead, much to the chagrin of the Indian government that wants more and more coal mines to fuel the economy, instead of investing in renewable energy.
What happened next stunned the entire world.
The Indian government called Greenpeace’s Indian division un-patriotic and took legal action to cut off all funds from outside of India. This was around 30% of their income, so it had a significant impact on their ability to campaign and fight to protect places like Mahan.
Then on 11th January, Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai tried to travel to the UK to speak to British MPs and ask them to help save Mahan Forest (as the coal company Essar is registered in the UK, British leaders had an important role to play in making them accountable for their actions).
Indian surveillance agents prevented her from getting on her flight, they stamped her passport with the word ‘offload’ and no explanations were offered, triggering a national scandal.
Greenpeace was in the headlines day after day as the nation debated – was free speech in India under threat? Was India turning into a Big Brother state?
Greenpeace and campaigners from the Mahan mounted legal challenges demanding that the Indian government explain exactly why they prevented Priya from travelling to the UK when she is not a criminal and not a danger to the national security of India or the UK.
The judge in the Delhi High Court lifted Priya’s travel ban and said the Indian Government was wrong to detain her. Separately, another legal ruling said that Greenpeace India’s funds shouldn’t be stopped by the government.
Despite the awe inspiring amount of work done to protect the forest’s thus far, the Indian government’s ministry of coal has yet to confirm that they’ll accept the decision.
It’s essential that Greenpeace and the people of the Mahan as well as their supporters worldwide continue to campaign on the subject of environmental awareness and responsibility in favour of renewable clean technologies otherwise yet another beautiful habitat of tigers and elephants, may disappear.
The world is running out of places for these beautiful and majestic animals to live in as humans continue to encroach upon their habitats. That’s why I support the work of organisations like Greenpeace as well as grassroots democracy that puts people, animals and the environment first.
If we ruin this planet, where else are we going to live?
Images provided by Greenpeace.