Environmental activism literally reached a new high on Wednesday, when Greenpeace activists clandestinely entered Essar Group’s multi-storey corporate office in South Mumbai and hung a massive banner (36 ft by 72 ft), which read ‘We kill forests’: Essar.
The banner also had pictures of the Union Minister of Environment and Forest Veerappa Moily and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The environmental action group, which is know for its unconventional actions, is protesting against the recent allocation of Mahan coal block to a joint venture company of Essar Power. The group fears that coal mining will destroy the bio-diverse Mahan forests, which is located in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh.
The group is demanding that Essar should scrap its plans of developing the coal mine, and that the Prime Minister should remove Moily from the Ministry. It has alleged that the Minister is granting environment clearances to large project at great speed, with a complete disregard for forest, wildlife and human beings, at the project sites.
“In a matter of 20 days, our new Environment Minister has cleared 70 projects worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore which means he can’t possibly have considered each proposal properly,” said Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India campaigner, in a media statement.
She claimed that the sequence of events leading to the allocation of Mahan block to Essar is questionable. It was rejected by Moily’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh but the company used its influence and got first stage clearances. Pushing for the mine without implementing the Forest Rights Act is a clear violation of the constitution.
At Essar’s office villagers from Mahan area also sat for a dharna demanding scrapping of project, which will impact about 14,000 people.
Kripanath, a resident of Amelia village in Singrauli district in the statement said that Essar is encroaching upon people’s homes in Mahan forest. It is robbing people’s livelihood in order to make quick money. “We have travelled 2,000 km to their head office in Mumbai to send them a strong message that our voices cannot be silenced,” he said.
Essar Group in a media statement said the Greenpeace action is nothing but blatant trespassing, in which some people, at behest of Greenpeace, masqueraded as building cleaning agents and gained access to the office, “In this illegal act, the trespassers misused the office premises to spread anti-corporate, misleading and false propaganda,” the statement said.
The statement added that with a view to gaining publicity for Greenpeace, these people suspended themselves from the top of the building. In doing so they also endangered lives of those working in the building and disrupted normal working of the employees. Eventually police arrested the trespassers and helped to clear the building.
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