Our campaign to stop 31 new opencast coal mines in the Damodar river catchment called Karanpura, Jharkhand is in full swing now with several letters being sent to the Governor of Jharkhand and Minister of Environment and Forests.
Further we have requested the Chairman of INTACH (The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) New Delhi of which I have been the Convener for the past 23 years, for INTACH to write to The President and The Prime Minister of India with the request to stop the mines' clearance.
We are a coalition of groups and individuals, both Indian and international, who are concerned about the devastation being effected by the rapid expansion of opencast coal mining in the Upper Damodar river catchment, also known as the Karanpura Valley in the Hazaribagh and Chatra districts of Jharkhand State, in eastern India, a richly forested and agricultural landscape with hundreds of ancestral villages belonging to indigenous Adivasi tribals, and peasant societies. We respectfully ask that you order an immediate stoppage to mining operations and an open and transparent review of how mine clearances are granted.
The State of Jharkhand was formed in 2000 to address the historical discrimination and disenfranchisement of the original settlers who had lived in the region before the establishment of present State boundaries, who are defined by ILO Convention 169 as Indigenous Peoples. Instead of protecting the land rights of these peoples the State is sadly failing to live up to its objective. Instead, the first decade of the State existence has been a free-for-all for mining companies, at a terrible cost to the original people and the environment. The Damodar River has become further polluted. Forced displacements of people from their homes have been accelerated. The unique and ancient landscape of the Chotanagpur Plateau is being sacrificed in a short-sighted rush for profit.
As an example of this, we would like to draw your attention to the coal mining scheduled to start shortly at Pakri-Bawardih near Barkagaon and over thirty other mines which have been allocated in Karanpura region. The rape of Jharkhandâs indigenous rights, cultural and environmental heritage, is moving into a final stage. The fertile lands of the ancient Barkagaon landscape and the rest of the Upper Damodar watershed now slated for mining as Karanpura Coalfields are among the best agricultural lands in Jharkhand and have been farmed since before recorded history. A unique palaeo-archaeological stone-tool evidence of Early Man known as the Damodar Valley Civilization, prehistoric megalithic sites, and one dozen rock-art sites, the pride of Jharkhand, dated to over 8,000 years back which have been recommended to UNESCO as a Threatened World Heritage Site by INTACH, and over 200 villages where the famous Khovar and Sohrai art being a continuation of the rock-art tradition, and thousands of square kilometers of forests which are wildlife corridors for tiger and elephants and scores of rivers flowing through the peaceful green agricultural landscape will be gouged out into 300 feet mine pits running shoulder to shoulder down the Karanpura Valley, which will be in a stark lunar landscape incapable of supporting human or animal life. The famed forests which are reflected in the name of Jharkhand itself, the âForest Stateâ, will be gone. Many of the proud Adivasi people in whose name the State of Jharkhand was formed have already been reduced to being homeless beggars, unable to farm as their predecessors did. Many more will now be condemned to this fate, forced from their homes as has happened so often, sacrificed for the profits of a few companies.
This expansion has a considerable effect in terms of global warming, to which India is particularly susceptible. Carbon dioxide is the single greatest contributor to global warming leading to eco-catastrophic climate change, posing a severe threat to human life, including rising sea levels, melting of glaciers in the Himalayas leading to drying up of Himalayan rivers including the Ganges, and extreme sudden rise of temperature in the sub-continent. Monsoon and other climate characteristics are feared to change. Carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere are already 50 parts per million in excess of world atmosphere danger levels and eminent scientists agree that the count-down to eco-catastrophe has already begun, with sea levels rising several meters. To avoid global eco-catastrophe in the near future experts are calling for an immediate reduction of 80 percent carbon dioxide emissions and withdrawal of 50 ppm Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of 20 trillion USD. The immediate reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has thus become a global concern. In this regard new opencast coal mines and coal-fired thermal power plants, which are acknowledged as among the greatest producers of carbon dioxide, are unjustifiable and unacceptable globally.
We request you to consider the above actions as violations of the following national and international Acts and Declarations,
1. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles- 8, 10, 26, 29, 31, and 32.
2. The Scheduled Tribes and other traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2008, Sections- 3, 4 (5), and 5.
3. Biological Diversity Act 2002, Sections- 36 (2) which requires directives to the State Government to take appropriate action, where any area rich in bio-diversity is being threatened, and 36 (4i) to asses the environment impact of projects which are likely to have adverse affects on bio-diversity.
4. Human Rights Council Resolutions 7/23/2008 and resolution 10/04 15th June 2009 on the Implications of Climate Change, and report of Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/10/61/ 2009) in regard to the relationship between climate change and human rights.
We petition Your Excellency to immediately order a stop to clearance of the mines which has been assured in six months from 26th June by the Governor of Jharkhand to the Minister for Coal.