The fight of an Indian activist against coal mines that destroy the forest

The fight of an Indian activist against coal mines that destroy the forest

After the success of its campaign to protect the biodiversity and population of the immense Hasdeo Aranya forestin central India, the activist Alok Shukla promises to continue its battle against the mining industry.

The activist, 45 years old, He has been fighting in the state of Chhattisgahr for 10 years (center) against the exploitation of one of the largest underground coal reserves of the country by mining conglomerates, including that of the Indian magnate Gautam Adani, Asia’s second fortune.

The struggle of activist Alok Shukla

“The purpose of our fight is to ensure that no more mines are opened here or more trees are felled”he states to the AFP the defender of the forests, rewarded on Monday with the Goldman Prize for his commitment to environmental protection.

Mountain forests went from covering 8.4% to only 0.5% of the provincial territory

He Hasdeo Aranya subsoil contains little more than 5 billion tons of coala manna that excites the greed of industrialists.

In 2021, after numerous marches, demonstrations, pressure on deputies and court battles orchestrated by Shukla, about 180,000 hectares of the Hasdeo forest were savedwhich were to be razed and replaced by an open-pit coal mine.

The intention of the prevention of forests and fauna

He Indian government finally created an elephant reserve in this forest area the size of London. 17 mines were closed. “The cancellation of these plans was a great success,” congratulates Shukla, in the Korba district where he is based.

But the war is far from won against the ferocious appetite of the mining conglomerateswho ignore the preservation of forests, fauna and thousands of people who depend on it. Large tracts of forest around the elephant reserve are still used for mining, where five sites are inactive, but a sixth, operational and belonging to the Adani group, plans to expand.

This expansion, which obtained the approval of the Chhattisgarh government in 2022, threatens the existence of the forest village of Parsa, whose inhabitants, supported by Shukla, protest with a continuous sit-in. They prevent the felling of trees and block the works since two years ago.

The explanation of why to care for forests and the environment

“It is not just a fight to save forests or the environment, but to review the common conception of economic development,” explains the activist.

The Adani group said in a statement to AFP “seek to improve the quality of life of communities” around the mine. “Some self-proclaimed militants work with the clear intention of damaging the group’s reputation,” he added.

The objective that India has

India committed to achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2070, two decades after most Western industrialized countries. According to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the most populous country in the world, with 1.4 billion inhabitantscannot free itself from fossil fuels due to its growing energy needs and great poverty.

Upon his arrival in 2012 in the Hasdeo forest, Shukla discovered that its inhabitants felt powerless against the mining conglomerates. From village to village, explained legal remedies and constitutional protections available to tribal communities against mines.

Together with their allies they resisted bribery, threats of violence and prosecution. Shakuntala Ekka, 47, among the first to join the cause, remembers Shukla’s first meetings, the “air of a revolutionary” about him.

Morga, the town of 1,800 souls where he lives, was saved from displacement thanks to his campaign. “It took time and it was difficult, but little by little people organized themselves,” he told AFP.

The Most of the inhabitants of Hasdeo survive thanks to agriculture of subsistence and what their forest offers, a traditional way of life that the arrival of mining companies disrupted. More than ten years ago, Shiv Prasad Khusro, a father of six, gave up his house and land too soon in exchange for compensation for the mining exploitation he was starting.

“I want to incite those who have not yet lost their lands to fight because we feel that we were deceived”he highlights.

Source: Ambito

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