MAC: Mines and Communities

Coal Mining Threat to Wildlife Corridors in Eastern India

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01


Carbon Watch "Burning Bright in India: Tigers or Coal?" Letter to the US President

March 9, 2000

President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave,
NW Washington,
DC 20005
USA

Dear Mr. President:

COAL MINING THREAT TO WILDLIFE CORRIDORS IN EASTERN INDIA

This letter seeks your help in protecting a vital tiger habitat in India that is about to be sacrificed for short-term financial gains. The World Bank is encouraging destructive coal mining in important tiger forest corridors in Eastern India in the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra which together contain a large portion of the remaining wild tigers on Earth.

These include areas which have been identified by the WWF as a Level One Tiger Conservation Unit, a system accepted by the leading tiger researchers. Devastation to the forests in the vicinity of coal mines is total, and no attempts have been made to mitigate this as forest corridors were not even considered in the Environmental Impact Assessments.

There are over 400 mines in the overall expansion, of which the World Bank is directly funding 25 to act as models of good environmental practice for the others to follow. The failure of the Bank to even consider wildlife corridors is a disgrace which may be the final straw, driving the tiger into the night of extinction.

We believe that officials in the Bank are aware of the inevitable harm that will come to tigers and other endangered species including elephants, but this has not stopped them from proceeding with their plans. These plans also involve serious human rights violations as tribal communities and those living on the lowest economic rung will be displaced from their lands and resources.The residents of entire villages have for instance been forcibly evicted from their homes, and are being asked to resettle under conditions that will ensure their pauperization.

To add to this catalogue of environmental and humanitarian crimes, the World Bank, together with the U.S. government, the largest investor in the World Bank, is seriously aggravating the problem of climate change by financing this coal mining in eastern India. Coal is the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels, contributing more greenhouse gases to the earth's atmosphere than any other fuel. We can see today the dire consequences severe storms and changes in weather patterns are having on the poorest in countries such as Mozambique, storms that are only predicted to worsen as the climate changes.

The World Bank should be helping the poorest with affordable, clean, renewable forms of energy, not making life harder for them with coal. The U.S. should also invest in clean energy in developing countries if it wants these countries to join the Kyoto Protocol.

The massive Indian coal mining expansion project, aided and partially funded by the World Bank, essentially considers wildlife and biodiversity to be expendable. While we in India are struggling to raise the level of awareness of the need to protect the tiger within industrial, financial and administrative circles, the Bank is short-circuiting our slow but steady progress by hastily pouring billions of dollars into the ecologically sensitive areas we want to save, causing them to be forever lost to future generations.

As an example of this, the Bank is directly funding two "environmental showcase mines" out of many planned in the North Karanpura Valley near Hazaribagh in Bihar State. A crucial study by the University of Delhi's Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environments (CISMHE) has confirmed our fears by establishing the importance of this area as an important connecting habitat for tiger and elephant. Significantly, this important report has neither been made public by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, nor by the World Bank, which has repeatedly promised, but failed, to send experts to study the area.

In the meanwhile, new mines continue to be approved, despite objections from local officials and NGOs. By setting such a poor precedent in Bihar, the Bank and its consultants have effectively ensured that none of the other 400-plus mines in the expansion will consider forest corridors in this huge area, which accounts for much of the tiger's remaining habitat in India, and indeed the world. It is clear that in the case of the highly endangered tiger, which is already under threat from poaching, this indeed has the potential to cause its extinction. Mr. President, the World Bank has long chosen to ignore human rights and environmental concerns, believing they have the tacit approval of the American Congress and taxpayer.

We urge you to raise this matter with your advisors prior to your visit to India so that an impending ecological disaster can be averted. More than one million Indian children have just signed what could be the world's largest Save-the-Tiger Scroll, which will be on display in Indian cities around the time that you visit our beautiful country. Your personal support and that of your high office for the children of India who are determined not to allow the tiger to slip into extinction is vital. The tiger's survival in the only country that has displayed the will and the ability to protect this magnificent cat is at stake. We believe you can help by preventing the willful destruction of its forest home in India.

Signed,

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia Magazine, Member, Indian Board for Wildlife India Jamshyd Godrej, President, World Wide Fund for Nature (India) India Gemma Mendes, Chotanagpur Adivasi Sewa Samiti, Bihar India Debra Rodrigues, Prerana Resource Centre, Bihar India Bulu Imam, INTACH, Sanskriti Centre, Bihar India Debi Goenka, Bombay Environmental Action Group India Goutam Narayan, Pigmy Hog Conservation Program India Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies USA Andrea Durbin, Friends of the Earth-USA USA Dana Clark, Center for International Environmental Law USA Bill Hare, Greenpeace International The Netherlands Peter Jackson, Chairman, Cat Specialist Group, World Conservation Union (IUCN) Switzerland Peter Richardson, Tiger Campaigner, Environmental Investigation Agency United Kingdom Edward Goldsmith, Editor, Ecologist Magazine United Kingdom Richard Harkinson, Minewatch United Kingdom James Arvanitakis, Campaign Director, AID/WATCH Australia CC: Jan Piercy, US Executive Director, World Bank Surendra Singh, India Executive Director, World Bank David Sandalow, US State Department Michael Colby, US Treasury Department Chris Herman, US Environmental Protection Agency

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