Singrauli Vikas Manch condemns foreign NGO Greenpeace for spreading misinformation and trying to 'engineer' village protests

Singrauli Vikas Manch (SVM), the leading industry and citizen representative forum of Singrauli district in Madhya Pradesh condemned the misinformation being spread by foreign NGO Greenpeace to stop a local development project of Mahan Coal Limited.

Singrauli Vikas ManchSingrauli Vikas Manch

Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, April 16, 2014 /India PRwire/ -- In a press statement SVM said Greenpeace's baseless allegations would only hamper development of the district, leading to severe job losses besides sending a wrong message to industries across the globe wanting to invest in Singrauli, which is also known as the 'Power Bowl' of India.

Speaking on the issue, Mr. Satish Uppal, President of Singrauli Vikas Manch said: "We condemn any move by foreign forces to stall infrastructure and mining projects of national importance in Singrauli district. The Mahan Coal project has passed the scrutiny of the central and local government, hence trying to scuttle the project through a media campaign is against the interests of the poor people living in the villages.

In case Mahan Coal is found wanting in its conduct - be it for compensation or providing jobs to local people as promised in the agreement - let government agencies investigate and the law will take its own course. But trying to derail a genuine project through misinformation and drumming up emotive issues like tribal and forest rights in the hope of creating local level conflict and tension is highly unethical and immoral."

Singrauli district, home to successful captive coal mining operations of power plants like Northern Coal Fields (a subsidiary of Coal India Limited), JP Associates, , Reliance Power (Sasan Power), Dainik Bhaskar Power Limited (DBPL), etc. In the absence of economic development, the forest cover was facing severe pressure from cattle grazing and human habitat and industrialisation in the district has only helped local people get employment and given a fillip to socio-economic development projects in the area. Not only this, through compensatory afforestation schemes the coffers of the forest department are flush with funds and eventually this can lead to greater greenery as well. There are clear evidences that plantation over reclaimed mined out areas of NCL's Jayant and Nigahi open-pit coal mines have resulted in better density of vegetation (satellite imagery has also proved it). New projects like Mahan can (and hopefully will) do even better.

Echoing the sentiment, Prof. (Dr.) Asim Kumar Paul, Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering of Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad said:"Claiming that the oxygen levels of Singrauli district would fall due to this project is absurd. Without any scientific study or validation, making such claims is irresponsible. Indian School of Mines is the premier institution in mining.The area of Mahan coal block is only 9.8 sq km. which is only 1.05 % of Mohan-Ban Reserve Forest. I appeal to local people to ignore such mischievous claims." Similar views have been expressed by the team from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur who are conducting a scientific study to assess the regional /comprehensive environmental carrying capacity of the entire Singrauli region.

Ironically, even though India has the world's fourth largest coal deposits, it will face a coal shortage of 238 million tonnes (MT) of coal in the 12th five year plan period (2012-2017). Still, foreign NGO's like Greenpeace continue to stall and hurt the country's power generating capacity. Looked at objectively, their actions seem to stem from an ulterior motive to keep India subservient to foreign powers through continued coal imports, which is a serious drain on precious foreign exchange reserves of the country. Sometimes, an ulterior motive or unholy nexus is apprehended between such foreign-funded NGOs and those lobbies who benefit from such import-export business.

A CEO of a leading NGO whose organisation has been working in and around the villages in Singrauli district in the areas of women's health, education and sanitation lamented: "Without doing any ground work for the upliftment of tribals or poor villagers, NGO's such as Greenpeace actually do more harm than good. With generous funding from foreign entities, such people actually manufacture 'dissent'. I appeal to all my NGO brethren to do on-ground work for the upliftment of local people since industrial development and (re)conservation of the environment can go hand in hand.

Dismissing a false propoganda, it said, there is no resettlement involved over Mahan coal block even though this part of the forest is under extreme biotic pressure due to human and cattle usage because of settlements near (but outside) forest land. Against the 3.6 lakh trees that will be cut during the life of the Mahan Coal mine, 69 lakh trees - 19 times the number - will be planted through both afforestation and restoration. Thus, the area will be much greener over the entire life of the project and will have no effect on the respiratory system of the people living there. Moreover, the project will create jobs and overall development in the region. Not surprisingly, local sentiment and villagers of Ameliya, Budhur and Suggo favour development.

Concerns over the hydrological impact of the Mahan Coal project have been addressed at various levels since the project was conceived. Based on the detailed hydrological studies carried out for the purpose in the past, government granted environmental clearances and approvals from the MP Pollution Control Board and Central Ground Water Authority were also obtained. Moreover, a study by the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), Roorkee has also been completed based on which final forest clearance was granted to the project.

Manju Shah, a self-employed mother of two from Ameliya village says: "Greenpeace is pitting villagers against each other. I want proper infrastructure likebijli, pani, sadak, education for our children, and jobs for our husbands. When companies come to our area, they provide us with jobs, compensation, self-employment and training,which helps us to come closer and become part of the modern world. As poor villagers we also have dreams of economic freedom and enjoying the modern comforts which can only happen through development."

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