Courtesy of Sierra Club India Environment Post
The Konkan coast of Maharashtra, India – dubbed the California of India – has been the stage for an impressive people’s movement bent on opposing a slew of coal-fired power projects and mines. These developments will ravage one of Maharashtra’s most serene areas, home to an international biodiversity hotspot as well as world famous Alphonso mango. Despite its idyllic setting, Konkan locals have proven themselves to be street-smart activists capable of striking back at those who threaten their way of life.
In the 90s, Konkan’s grassroots movement opposed big projects from Sterlite Copper and Enron Power. Both projects were successfully closed or forced out by local resistance. However, the sheer scale of development they now face is staggering. At least fifteen proposed coal-fired power projects equaling 25 GW of power – the equivalent of 50 US coal-fired power plants - are set to be built on a narrow strip of coastal land 50 to 90 km wide and 105 km long. This represents a 200% increase in coal-fired power for the entire state of Maharashtra, a state which already has the largest total installed capacity equal to 11 GW, or 13% of nationwide capacity.
The grassroots resistance is comprised of NGOs such as the Ankur Trust and Conservation Action Trust, Mango exporters that are seeing their crops jeopardized by uncontrolled fly ash and toxic acid rain, and local citizens threatened with displacement. These groups have stood in unwavering defiance of state and national government planning; private corporations that are owned by some of the world’s richest men, and international financiers. They have done so to uphold a vision that places people and the natural world at the heart of development - something that no amount of PR or marketing spin can give large-scale fossil fuel projects.
It now seems that Konkan’s David-like struggle has found an ally in the government; Jairam Ramesh, the Green Crusader. Ramesh recently ordered a review of 55 mining projects and over a dozen coal-fired power projects (including one of the Government of India’s nine Ultra Mega Power Projects) to study the effect such development will have on the entire Western Ghat region. The Western Ghat region is home to an international campaign to save the rich biodiversity that has been recognized by numerous international organizations.
While Ramesh’s support is laudable, his hand was ultimately forced by the efforts of determined local resistance to the destruction these projects would leave in their wake. With controversy swirling over the Vedanta mining scandal in Orissa on India’s Eastern coast it seems that local people across the country are making their stand. Today, those in the industrialized world must tip their hats to the courageous efforts of a determined few who are helping to shape their country’s, and by extension our planet’s future, with or without our help.
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